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SPECIMENS 



FOREIGN f AND ARD LITERATURE. 

VOL. IV. 



SPECIMENS 

OF 

FOREIGN STANDARD LITERATURE. 

EDITED 

By GEORGE RIPLEY. 



VOL. IV. 

CONTAINING 

CONVERSATIONS WITH GOETHE, 

FROM THE GERMAN 
OF 

ECKERMANN. 



BOSTON: 
HILLIARD, GRAY, AND COMPANY. 

M.DCCC.XXXIX. 



As wine and oil are imported to us from abroad, so must ripe 
understanding, and many civil virtues, be imported into our 
minds from foreign writings ; — we shall else miscarry still, and 
come short in the attempts of any great enterprise. 

Milton, History of Britain, Book HI. 



CONVERSATIONS WITH GOETHE 

IN THE LAST YEARS OF HIS LIFE, 

TRANSLATED FROM THE GERMAN 
OF 

ECKERMANN. 
By S. M. FULLER. 



BOSTON: 
HILLIARD, GRAY, AND COMPANY. 

M.DCCC.XXXIX. 



Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1839, 
By Milliard, Gray, and Co. 
in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the District of Massachusetts. 



STEREOTYPED AT THE 
BOSTON TYPE AND STEREOTYPE FOUNDRY. 



TRANSLATOR'S PREFACE. 



This book cannot fail to interest all who are 
desirous to understand the character and opinions 
of Goethe, or the state of literary society in Germany. 
The high opinion which Goethe entertained of Ecker- 
mann's fidelity, judgment, and comprehension of 
himself, is sufficiently proved, by his appointing him 
editor of his Posthumous Works. The light in 
which this book is regarded by the distinguished 
circle of which Goethe was the glory, may be seen 
by a reference to the first volume of Mrs. Jameson's 
late work, "Winter Studies and Summer Rambles 
in Canada." 

It is, obviously, a most faithful record. Perhaps 
there is no instance in which one mind has been 
able to give out what it received from another, so 
little colored by its own substance. It is true that 
the simple reverence, and thorough subordination 



viii 



translator's preface. 



to the mind of Goethe, which make Eckermann so 
transparent a medium, prevent his being of any value 
as an interpreter. Never was satellite more com- 
pletely in harmony with his ruling orb. He is merely 
the sounding-board to the various notes played by 
the master's hand ; and what we find here is, to all 
intents and purposes, not conversation, but monologue. 
A finer book might be made by selections from 
Goethe's miscellanies ; but here some subjects are 
brought forward on which he never wrote. The 
journal form gives an ease and life to the discussion, 
and what is wanting in fulness and beauty is made 
up to us by the pleasure we always take in the unpre- 
meditated flow of thought, and in seeing what topics 
come up naturally with such a person as Goethe. 

An imperial genius must have not only willing 
subjects, but good instruments. Eckermann has all 
the merit of an intelligent minister and a discreet 
secretary. He is ruled and modelled, but not blinded, 
by Goethe. When we look at the interesting sketch 
of his youthful struggles, and see what obligations 
he owed to Goethe, as well before as after their 
personal acquaintance, we cannot blame him for his 
boundless gratitude to the sun which chased away 
so many clouds from his sky. He seems, indeed, led 



translator's preface. 



ix 



onward to be the foster-child and ready helper of 
this great man, and could not so well have filled 
this place, if he had kept sufficiently aloof to satisfy 
our pride. I say our pride, because we are jealous 
for minds which we see in this state of subordi- 
nation. We feel it too dangerous to what is most 
valuable in character; and, rare as independence is, 
we cannot but ask it from all who live in the light 
of genius. 

Still, our feeling towards Eckermann is not only 
kindly, but respectful. He is not ridiculous, like 
Boswell, for no vanity or littleness sullies his sincere 
enthusiasm. In these sober and enlightened days, 
we rebel against man-worship, even though it be hero- 
worship. But how could this person, so rich in 
natural gifts, so surrounded by what was bright, 
beautiful, and courtly, and at so high a point of 
culture, fail to be overpowering to an obscure youth, 
whose abilities he had been the chief means of 
unfolding? It could not be otherwise than that 
Eckermann should sit at his feet, and live on his 
bounty. Enough for the disciple to know how to 
use what he received with thoughtful gratitude. That 
Goethe also knew how to receive is evident from his 
correspondences with Zelter, Schiller, and Meyer, — 



x translator's preface. 

relations which show him in a better light than 
this with Eckermann, because the parties were on 
more equal terms. 

Those letters, or the substance of them, will, some 
time, be published here. Meanwhile, the book before 
us has merits which they do not possess. It paints 
Goethe to us as he was in the midst of his family, and 
in his most careless or weary hours. Under such cir- 
cumstances, whatever may be thought of his views, 
(and they are often still less suited to our public than to 
that of Germany,) his courteous grace, his calm wisdom 
and reliance on the harmony of his faith with his 
nature, must be felt, by the unprejudiced reader, to 
be beautiful and rare. 

And here it may not be amiss to give some intima- 
tion (more my present limits do not permit) of the 
grounds on which Goethe is, to myself, an object of 
peculiar interest and constant study. 

I hear him much assailed by those among us who 
know him, some few in his own language, but most 
from translations of " Wilhelm Meister " and " Faust." 
These, his two great works, in which he proposed to 
himself the enigma of life, and solved it after his own 



translator's preface. 



xi 



fashion, were, naturally enough, selected, in preference 
to others, for translating. This was, for all but the 
translators, unfortunate, because these two, above all 
others, require a knowledge of the circumstances and 
character from which they rose, to ascertain their scope 
and tendency. 

It is sneeringly said, " Those persons who are so 
fanatical for German literature always say, if you 
object to any of their idols, that you are not capable 
of appreciating them." And it is truly, though 
oftentimes too impatiently, said. The great movement 
in German literature is too recent to be duly esti- 
mated, even by those most interested to examine it. 
The waves have scarce yet ebbed from this new con- 
tinent, and those who are visiting its shores, see so 
much that is new and beautiful, that of their many 
obligations to the phenomenon, the chief is, as yet, 
that of the feeling of fresh creative life at work there. 
No wonder that they feel vexed at those who declare, 
from an occasional peep through a spy-glass, that they 
see no new wonders for geology ; that they can bota- 
nize all the flowers, and find nothing worthy of fresh 
attempts at classification ; and that there are no birds 
except a few sea-gulls. Would these hasty critics but 
recollect how long it was before similar movements in 



xii 



translator's preface. 



Italy, Spain, France, and England, found their proper 
place in the thoughts of other nations, they would not 
think fifty years' investigation too much for fifty years' 
growth, and would no longer provoke the ire of those 
who are lighting their tapers at the German torch. 
Meanwhile it is silly to be in a pet always ; and dis- 
dainful answers have been recognized as useless since 
Solomon's time, or earlier. What could have been 
the reason they were not set aside, while that wise 
prince lived, once for all ? 

The objections usually made, though not without 
a foundation in truth, are such as would answer 
themselves on a more thorough acquaintance with the 
subject. In France and England there has seemed an 
approximation, of late, to juster views. Yet, in a recent 
number of "Blackwood's Magazine," has appeared 
an article as ignorant (and that is a strong word) as 
any thing that has ever been written about Goethe. 

The objections, so far as I know them, may be 
resolved into these classes — 
He is not a Christian ; 
He is not an Idealist ; 
He is not a Democrat ; 
He is not Schiller. 



translator's preface. xiii 

If by Christian be meant the subordination of the 
intellectual to the spiritual, I shall not deny that with 
Goethe the reverse was the case. He sought always 
for unity ; but the want with him was chiefly one of 
the intellect. A creative activity was his law. He 
was far from insensible to spiritual beauty in the 
human character. He has imbodied it in its finest 
forms ; but he merely put it in, what seemed to him, 
its place, as the key-stone of the social arch, and paints 
neither that nor any other state with partiality. Such 
was his creed as a writer. " I paint," he seems to say, 
" what I have seen ; choose from it, or take it all, as 
you will or can." In his love of form Goethe was a 
Greek ; constitutionally, and by the habit of his life, 
averse to the worship of sorrow. His God was rather 
the creative and upholding than the paternal spirit ; his 
religion, that all his powers must be unfolded ; his faith, 
" that nature could not dispense with Immortality." 
In the most trying occasions of his life, he referred to 
" the great Idea of Duty which alone can hold us 
upright." Renunciation, the power of sacrificing the 
temporary for the permanent, is a leading idea in one 
of his great works, " Wilhelm Meister." The thought 
of the Catholic Dante is repeated in his other great 
work, (" Faust,") where Margaret, by her innocence of 
heart, and the resolute aversion to the powers of dark- 

b 



xiv translator's PREFACE. 

ness, which her mind, in its most shattered state, does 
not forget, redeems not only her own soul, but that of 
her erring lover. The virgin Ottilia, who immolates 
herself to avoid the possibility of spotting her thoughts 
with passion, gives to that much-abused book (Die 
Wahlverwandtschaften) the pathetic moral of the pic- 
tures of the Magdalen. His two highest female char- 
acters, Natalia and Makaria, are representations of 
beneficence and heavenly wisdom. Iphigenia, by her 
steadfast truth, hallows all about her, and disarms the 
powers of hell. Such traits as these may be accumu 
lated ; yet it remains not the less true that Goethe was 
not what is called a spiritual writer. Those who can- 
not draw their moral for themselves had best leave his 
books alone ; they require the power as life does. 
This advantage only does he give, or intend to give 
you, of looking at life brought into a compass con- 
venient to your eye, by a great observer and artist, and 
at times when you can look uninterrupted by action, 
undisturbed by passion. 

He was not an Idealist ; that is to say, he thought 
not so much of what might be as what is. He did 
not seek to alter or exalt Nature, but merely to select 
from her rich stores. Here, indeed, even as an artist, 
he would always have stopped short of the highest 



translator's preface. 



XV 



excellence, if he had not at times been inspired beyond 
his knowledge and his will. Had his views been dif- 
ferent, his peculiar powers of minute, searching, and 
extended observation would have been much injured ; 
as, instead of looking at objects with the single aim of 
ascertaining their properties, he would have examined 
them only to gain from them what most favored his 
plans. I am well satisfied that "he went the way 
that God and Nature called him." 

He was an Aristocrat. And, in the present day, hos- 
tility arises instinctively against one who does not be- 
lieve in the people, and whose tastes are in favor of a 
fixed external gradation. My sympathies are with the 
great onward movement now obvious throughout the 
civilized world ; my hope is that we may make a fair 
experiment whether men can be educated to rule 
themselves, and communities be trusted to choose 
their own rulers. This is, it seems, the present 
tendency of the Ages ; and, had I influence, I would 
not put a straw in the way. Yet a minority is 
needed to keep these liberals in check, and make 
them pause upon their measures long enough to know 
what they are doing ; for, as yet, the caldron of 
liberty has shown a constant disposition to overboil. 
The artist and literary man is naturally thrown into 



xvi 



translator's preface. 



this body, by his need of repose, and a firm ground to 
work in his proper way. Certainly Goethe by nature 
belonged on that side ; and no one, who can under- 
stand the structure of his mind, instead of judging 
him by his outward relations, will impute to him 
unworthy motives, or think he could, being what 
he was, hold other opinions. And is not this all 
which is important ? The gates that keep out the 
water while the ship is building have their place also, 
as well as the ship itself, or the wind which fills the 
sails. To be sincere, consistent, and intelligent in 
what one believes is what is important ; a higher 
power takes care of the rest. 1 

In reply to those who object to him that he is not 
Schiller, it may be remarked that Shakspeare was not 
Milton, nor Ariosto Tasso. It was, indeed, unneces- 
sary that there should be two Schillers, one being suf- 
ficient to represent a certain class of thoughts and 
opinions. It would be well if the admirers of Schiller 
would learn from him to admire and profit by his friend 
and coadjutor, as he himself did. 

1 For Goethe's own view of his past conduct, and in his last 
days, when his life had well nigh become a part of history, see 
p. 413. 



translator's preface. 



xvü 



Schiller was wise enough to judge each nature by its 
own law, great enough to understand greatness of an 
order different from his own. He was too well aware 
of the value of the more beautiful existences to quarrel 
with the rose for not being a lily, the eagle for not 
being a swan. 

I am not fanatical as to the benefits to be derived 
from the study of German literature. I suppose, in- 
deed, that there lie the life and learning of the century, 
and that he who does not go to those sources can have 
no just notion of the workings of the spirit in the 
European world these last fifty years or more ; but 
my tastes are often displeased by German writers, even 
by Goethe — of German writers the most English and 
most Greek. To cultivate the tastes, we must go to 
another school ; but I wish that we could learn from 
the Germans habits of more liberal criticism, and leave 
this way of judging from comparison or personal pred- 
ilections. If we must draw parallels, we ought to be 
sure that we are capable of a love for all greatness as 
fervent as that of Plutarch's time. Perhaps it may be 
answered that the comparison between Goethe and 
Schiller began in G ermany : it did so, but arose there 
from circumstances with which we have nothing to do. 
Generally, the wise German criticises with the positive 

b 2 



xviii 



translator's preface. 



degree, and is well aware of the danger in using the 
comparative. 

For the rest, no one who has a higher aim in read- 
ing German books than mere amusement ; no one who 
knows what it is to become acquainted with a literature 
as literature, in its history of mutual influences, diverse 
yet harmonious tendencies, can leave aside either Schil- 
ler or Goethe ; but far, far least the latter. It would 
be leaving Augustus Caesar out of the history of Rome 
because he was not Brutus. 

Having now confessed to what Goethe is not, I 
would indicate, as briefly as possible, what, to me, 
he is. 

Most valuable as a means of balancing the judg- 
ment and suggesting thought from his antagonism to 
the spirit of the age. He prefers the perfecting of the 
few to the slight improvement of the many. He 
believes more in man than men, effort than success, 
thought than action, nature than providence. He 
does not insist on my believing with him. I would 
go up often into this fortress, and look from its battle- 
ments, to see how goes the fight below. I need not 



translator's preface. 



xix 



fear to be detained. He knows himself too well to 
ask any thing of another except to know him. 

As one of the finest lyric poets of modern times. 
Bards are also prophets ; and woe to those who refuse 
to hear the singer, to tender him the golden cup of 
homage. Their punishment is in their fault. 

As the best writer of the German language, who has 
availed himself of all its advantages of richness and 
flexibility, and added to them a degree of lightness, 
grace, clearness, and precision, beyond any other 
writer of his time ; who has, more than any other, 
tended to correct the fantastic, cumbrous, centipede 
style indigenous to Germany. 

As a critic, on art and literature, not to be surpassed 
in independence, fairness, powers of sympathy, and 
largeness of view. 

As almost the finest observer of his time of human 
nature, and almost as much so of external nature. He 
has great delicacy of penetration, and a better tact at 
selecting objects than almost any who has looked at 
the time of which I am a child. Could I omit to 
study this eighty years' journal of my parent's life, 



xx translator's preface. 

traced from so commanding a position, by so sure a 
hand, and one informed by so keen and cultivated 
an eye ? Where else shall we find so large a mirror, 
or one with so finely decorated a frame ? 

As a mind which has known how to reconcile indi- 
viduality of character with universality of thought ; a 
mind which, whatever be its faults, mied and relied on 
itself alone ; a nature which knew its law, and revolved 
on its proper axis, unrepenting, never bustling, always 
active, never stagnant, always calm. 

A distinguished critic speaks of Goethe as the con- 
queror of his century. I believe I do not take so 
admiring a view of the character of Goethe as this, his 
only competent English critic. I refer to Mr. Carlyle. 
But so far as attaining the object he himself proposed, 
a choice of aim, a " wise limitation," and unwearied 
constancy in the use of means ; so far as leaving behind 
the limbo of self-questioning uncertainty in which most 
who would fain think as well as act are wading, and 
bringing his life into an uninterrupted harmony with 
his thought, he did indeed conquer. He knew both 
what he sought and how to seek it — a great matter ! 

I am not a blind admirer of Goethe. I have felt 



translator's preface. xxi 

what others feel, and seen what others see. I, too, 
have been disturbed by his aversion to pain and 
isolation of heart. I also have looked in vain for the 
holy and heroic elements. Nor do I believe that 
any degree of objectivity is inconsistent with a 
partiality for what is noblest in individual characters. 
Shakspeare is a proof to the contrary. As a critic, 
he does not treat subjects masterly. He does not 
give you, at once, a central point, and make you 
feel the root of the matter ; but you must read his 
essays as aggregates of thoughts, rather clustering 
round than unfolding the subject. In his later years, 
he lost his architectural vigor ; and his works are built 
up like the piles in Piranesi's " Visions " of galleries 
and balconies connected only by cobweb ladders. 
Many of his works I feel to be fragmentary and 
inadequate. I am even disposed to deny him the 
honors most generally awarded him — those of the 
artist. I think he had the artist's eye, and the artist's 
hand, but not the artist's love of structure. 

But I will stop here, and wait till the time when 
I shall have room to substantiate my charges. I 
flatter myself I have now found fault enough to 
prove me a worthy critic, after the usual fashion. 
Mostly, I prefer levelling upwards, in the way recom- 



xxii 



translator's preface. 



mended by Goethe in speaking of the merchants he 
met while travelling. 1 

While it is so undesirable that any man should 
receive what he has not examined, a far more frequent 
danger is that of flippant irreverence. Not all that 
the heavens contain is obvious to the unassisted 
eye of the careless spectator. Few men are great, 
almost as few able to appreciate greatness. The 
critics have written little upon the " Iliad," in all 
these ages, which Alexander would have thought 
worth keeping with it in his golden box. Nor 
Shakspeare, nor Dante, nor Calderon, has as yet 
found a sufficient critic, though Coleridge and the 
Schlegels have lived since they did. The greatness 
of Goethe his nation has felt for more than half a 
century ; the world is beginning to feel it, but time 
may not yet have ripened his critic; especially as 
the grand historical standing point is the only one 
from which a comprehensive view could be taken 
of him. 

Meanwhile, it is safer to take off the hat and 
shout Vivat! to the conqueror who may become 



» See p. 192. 



translator's preface. 



xxiii 



a permanent sovereign, than to throw stones and mud 
from the gutter. The star shines, and that it is 
with no borrowed light, his foes are his voucher. 
And every planet is a portent to the world ; but 
whether for good or ill, only he can know who has 
science for many calculations. Not he who runs 
can read these books, or any books of any worth. 
I am content to describe him in the terms Hamlet 
thought sufficiently honorable to him he honored 
most : — 

" He was a man, take him for all in all, 
We shall not look upon his like again." 

As such, worth our study ; — and more to us than 
elder great men, because of our own day, and busied 
most with those questions which lie nearest us. 

With regard to the manner in which the task of 
translation has been performed, I have been under 
some disadvantages, which should be briefly mentioned. 
I thought the book would be an easy one to translate, 
as, for a book of table-talk, so much greater liberty 
would be allowed, and so much less care demanded, 
than for a classical work, or one of science. But 
the wide range of topics, and the use of coterie 
technics, have made it more difficult, and less fit for 



xxiv translator's preface. 

the amusement of leisure hours, than was expected. 
Some of these technics I have used as they stood, 
such as motiv, grandiose, and apprehensio, the last- 
named of which I do not understand ; the first, Mrs. 
Jameson has explained, in a note to the " Winter 
Studies." Generally, my acquaintance with Goethe's 
works, on the same subjects, makes me confident 
that I have the thought. 

Then I was unexpectedly obliged, by ill health, 
to dictate a considerable part of it. I was not 
accustomed to this way of getting thoughts put upon 
paper, and do not feel as well satisfied with these 
pages as with those written by my own hand. I 
have, however, looked them over so carefully, that 
I think there can be no inaccuracies of consequence. 

But, besides, — it being found that the two German 
volumes would not, by any means, make two, yet were 
too much for one of the present series, — it seemed 
necessary, in some way, to compress or curtail the 
book. For this purpose, passages have been omitted 
relating to Goethe's theory of colors. These contain 
accounts of experiments made by Eckermann, and 
remarks of Goethe's suggested by them. As the 
Farbenlehre is scarcely known here, I thought these 



translator's preface. 



XXV 



would not now be interesting, and that, if the work 
to which they refer should by and by be translated, 
they might to better advantage be inserted in an 
appendix. And I was glad to dispense with them, 
because I have no clear understanding of the subject, 
and could not have been secure of doing them justice. 

I have also omitted Eckermann's meagre record 
of his visit to Italy, some discussions about a novel 
of Goethe's, not yet translated, which would scarcely 
be intelligible to those who have not read it, and 
occasionally other passages, which seemed to me 
expletive, or so local as to be uninteresting. I have 
also frequently condensed Eckermann's remarks, and 
sometimes, though more rarely, those of his patron. 

I am aware that there is a just prejudice against 
paraphrastic or mutilated translations, and that, in 
this delicate process, I have laid myself open to much 
blame. But I have done it with such care, that I 
feel confident the substance of the work, and its 
essential features, will be found here, and hope, if so, 
that any who may be acquainted with the original, 
and regret omissions, will excuse them. These two 
rules have been observed, — not to omit even such 
details as snuffing the candles and walking to the 

c 



xxvi translator's preface. 

stove, (given by the good Eckermann with that truly 
German minuteness which, many years ago, so pro- 
voked the wit of Mr. Jeffrey,) when they seem 
needed to finish out the picture, either of German 
manners, or Goethe's relations to his friends or house- 
hold. Neither has any thing been omitted which 
would cast either light or shade on his character. I 
am sure that nothing has been softened or extenuated, 
and believe that Goethe's manners, temper, and 
opinions, wear here the same aspect that they do 
in the original. 

I have a confidence that the translation is, in the 
truest sense, faithful, and trust that those who find 
the form living and symmetrical, will not be inclined 
severely to censure some change in the cut or make 
of the garment in which it is arrayed. 

Jamaica Plains, May 23, 1839. 



CONTENTS. 



Page. 

TRANSLATOR'S PREFACE VÜ 

AUTHOR'S PREFACE 3 

INTRODUCTION 8 

CONVERSATIONS 29 



ECKERMANN 



ECKERMANN. 



AUTHOR'S PREFACE 

This collection of Conversations with Goethe takes 
its rise chiefly from an impulse natural to my mind, 
to record in writing any part of my experience which 
strikes me as valuable or remarkable. 

I felt constantly the need of instruction, not only 
during the earlier stages of my connection with that 
extraordinary man, but also after I had been living 
with him for years ; so that I continued to fix my at- 
tention on the import of his words, and to note them 
down, that I might continue all my life to use them. 

When I think how rich and full were the communi- 
cations by which he made me so happy for a period of 
nine years, and how small a part I retain in writing, I 
seem to myself like a child who, stretching out his 
hands to catch the refreshing spring shower, finds that 
the greater part of it runs through his fingers. But, 
as the saying is, that each book has its destiny, and as 
this applies no less to the manner in which a book is 
produced than to its effect upon the world, so may we 
use it with regard to the origin of this book. Some- 
times for whole months the stars were unpropitious, 



4 



ECKE1MANN. 



and ill health, business, or various toils needful to 
daily existence, would prevent my adding a single line 
to the record ; but then arose again more kindly stars, 
and health, leisure, and the desire to write, combined 
to help me a good step forwards. We must also re- 
member, that, where persons are domesticated together, 
there will be intervals of indifference ; and where is he 
who knows always how to prize the present at its due 
rate? 

I mention these things to excuse the frequent and 
important chasms which the reader will find, if he read 
the book in chronological order. To such chasms 
belong many, now lost, good things, especially many 
favorable words spoken by Goethe of his friends, 
as well as of the works of various German authors, 
while, in the propitious days, remarks not more 
important with regard to others have been carefully 
recorded. But, as I said before, the destiny of a book 
influences even its origin. 

For the rest, I consider what I do possess in these 
two volumes, and which I have some title to regard as 
the peculiar ornament of my own existence, with deep- 
felt gratitude as the gift of Providence, and have con- 
fidence that the world with which I share it will also 
feel gratitude towards me. 

I think that these conversations not only contain 
many valuable explanations and instructions on science, 
art, and the practical affairs of life, but these sketches 
of Goethe, taken direct from life, will lend important 
aid to complete the portrait which each reader may 
have begun of him from an acquaintance with his 
manifold works. 



author's preface. 



5 



Still 1 am far from imagining that the whole inner 
man of Goethe is here adequately portrayed. We 
may, with propriety, compare this extraordinary spirit 
and man to a many-sided diamond, which in each di- 
rection shines with a different light. And, as he turned 
to each person a different side, and was in each relation 
a different being from what he was in another, so I, 
too, can only say, in a very modest sense, this is my 
Goethe. 

And this applies not merely to his manner of pre- 
senting himself to me, but to my incapacity for fully 
receiving and reproducing him. In such cases, each 
ray is reflected, and it is very seldom that, in passing 
through the individuality of another being, nothing of 
the original is lost, and nothing foreign interfused. 
The representations of the person of Goethe by Rauch, 
Dawe, Stieler, and David, have all a high degree of 
truth, and yet each bears more or less the stamp of the 
individuality which produced it. If this be observed 
of bodily things, how much more of those objects of 
spiritual observation which are in their nature fleeting 
and intangible ! And as my efforts are directed to a 
subject of the latter description, I trust that those who, 
from the nature of their minds or personal acquaintance 
with Goethe, are fitted to judge, will not misinterpret 
my sincere exertions to preserve as great fidelity as was 
possible. 

Having given what seem to me necessary explana- 
tions as to the object of this work, I have still some- 
thing to add as to its import. 

That which we name the True, even in relation to a 
single object, is by no means something little, narrow, 



6 ECKERMANN. 

limited; rather is it, if something simple, yet by its 
nature comprehensive also, which, like all manifesta- 
tions of a deep and wide-reaching natural law, cannot 
so very easily be expressed. It cannot be got rid of 
by clothing it in words, not by statements upon state- 
ments, nor the contradiction of them. Through all 
these, one attains only an approximation to the aim. 
So, for instance, Goethe's detached remarks upon poetry 
often have an appearance of one-sidedness, and indeed 
often of positive contradiction. Sometimes he lays 
all the stress on the material which the outward world 
affords ; sometimes upon that which is given by the 
inward world of the poet : sometimes the greatest im- 
portance is attached to the subject ; sometimes to the 
mode of treating it : sometimes all is made to depend 
on perfection of form ; sometimes form is to be neg- 
lected, and all the attention paid to the spirit. 

But all these seeming contradictions are, in fact, 
only successive presentations of single sides of a truth, 
which, by their union, manifest completely to us its 
existence, and guide us to a perception of its nature; 
and I have been careful in this, as in all similar cases, 
to give these seemingly contradictory remarks exactly 
as they were called out by different occasions, years, 
and hours. I confide in the insight and comprehensive 
power of the cultivated reader not to look at any one 
part by itself, but to keep his eye on the significance 
of the whole, and by that means to bring each particu- 
lar into its proper place and relations. 

Perhaps, too, the reader will find here many things 
which at first seem unimportant. But if, on looking 
deeper, he perceive that what is in itself trifling, often 



author's preface. 



7 



serves as introduction to something of real importance, 
or a foundation to something which belongs to a later 
period, or contributes some slight but indispensable 
touch to a sketch of character, these will necessarily 
be, if not sanctified, at least excused. 

And now I bid a loving farewell to my so long cher- 
ished book, wishing that its travels through the world 
may be a source both of benefit and pleasure to those 
who shall receive it. 



Weimar, 31st October, 1835. 



8 



ECKERMANN. 



INTRODUCTION j 

IN WHICH THE AUTHOR GIVES SOME ACCOUNT OF HIS PARENT- 
AGE, HIS EARLY LIFE, AND THE CIRCUMSTANCES WHICH LED 
TO HIS CONNECTION WITH GOETHE. 

I was born at Winsen on the Lühe, a little town 
between Lüneburg and Hamburg, on the borders of 
the marsh and heath lands, in the year ninety. My 
parents lived in a hut, for such I may well call a 
small house that only had one room, with a fireplace 
in it, and no stairs. A ladder rose from the very 
door to the hayloft. I was the youngest, child of a 
second marriage, and grew up alone under the care 
of parents already quite advanced in life when I was 
born. My elder brothers had gone to sea, and one 
of them was dead ; my sisters were at service. 

The principal means of support, possessed by our 
little family, was a cow. We had besides a piece 
of land, which supplied us with vegetables. Corn 
and meal we were obliged to buy. My mother was 
expert at spinning wool ; she also gave much satis 
faction by the caps she made for the women of the 
village, and in both ways earned some money. 

My father drove a small traffic, which varied accord- 
ing to the seasons, and obliged him to be much from 
home, travelling on foot about the country. In sum- 
mer, he was seen with a light wooden box on his 



INTRODUCTION. 



9 



back, going from hamlet to hamlet, and from door 
to door, with ribbons, thread, and silk. For these 
he received in one part of the country woollen stock- 
ings, and a cloth of their manufacture, which he again 
disposed of on the other side of the Elbe. In the 
winter, he trafficked in the moors for rough quills and 
unbleached linen, which he sent to Hamburg. But, 
at all times, his gains were very small, and we lived in 
poverty. 

My employments in childhood varied according to 
the season. As spring opened, and the waters of the 
Elbe receded, after their customary overflow, I was 
sent daily to collect the sedges which had been thrown 
up by the waters, to make litter for our cow. But 
when the green had at last stolen over the broad 
meadows, I, with other boys, passed long days in 
watching the cows. In summer, I had much to do 
in our field, and all the year through was employed 
to bring dry wood from thickets scarce an hour's walk 
from the house. At harvest time, I passed weeks as a 
gleaner, and when the autumn winds had shaken the 
trees, I gathered acorns, which I sold to those who 
kept geese. When I was old enough, I went with my 
father from hamlet to hamlet, and helped carry his 
bundle. This time affords some of the fairest remem- 
brances of my youth. 

Under such influences, and busied in such employ- 
ments, attending, too, at certain periods, a school 
where I barely learned to read and write, I reached 
my fourteenth year. Every one will confess that from 
this situation to an intimate connection with Goethe 
was a great step, and one it seemed scarcely probable 



10 



ECKERMANN. 



I should ever take. I knew not that there were in 
the world such things as Poetry, or the Fine Arts ; and, 
fortunately, there was no room in my life for a blind 
longing and striving after them. 

It has been said that animals are instructed by their 
very organization ; and so may it be said of man, that 
he often, by some accidental action, is taught the 
higher powers which slumber within him. So some- 
thing now happened to me which, though insignificant 
in itself, gave a new turn to my life, and is therefore 
stamped indelibly on my memory. 

I sat one evening with both my parents at a table 
on which a lamp was burning. My father, who had 
just returned from Hamburg, was talking about his 
business there. He loved smoking, and had brought 
back with him a packet of tobacco, which lay before 
him on the table, and had upon its wrapper the picture 
of a horse. This picture struck me as very good, and, 
as I had by me pen, ink, and a piece of paper, I was 
seized with an irresistible inclination to copy it. My 
father continued talking about Hamburg, and I, being 
quite unobserved, became wholly engaged in drawing 
the horse. When finished, it seemed to me a perfect 
likeness of the original, and I experienced a delight 
before unknown. I showed my parents what I had 
done, and they could not avoid praising me and ex- 
pressing admiration. I passed the night in happy 
excitement, and almost sleepless ; I thought constantly 
of the horse I had drawn, and longed for morning that 
I might look at it again. 

From this time the once excited propensity was 
never forgotten. But as I found no help of any sort 



INTRODUCTION. 



11 



in our place, I deemed myself most happy when our 
neighbor, who was a potter, lent me some outlines, 
which he had as models for painting his plates and 
dishes. 

These sketches I copied very carefully with pen and 
ink, and the book, in which these drawings were, was 
passed from hand to hand, till at last it came under the 
eye of Meyer, Administrator of the place. He sent for 
me, and bestowed on me both presents and cordial 
praises. He asked me if I was seriously desirous to 
become a painter, for if so he would send me to a 
proper master at Hamburg. I said I was desirous, 
and would talk of it with my parents. But they, 
peasants by birth and education, and having lived 
in a place where scarce any occupations were fol- 
lowed except agriculture, and the rearing of cattle, 
thought of a painter only as one who paints doors 
and houses. They, therefore, advised me earnestly 
against it, saying it was not only a very dirty, but 
very dangerous trade, and that those who worked at 
it, especially in Hamburg, where the houses are seven 
stories high, were constantly in danger of breaking 
their legs or necks. As my own ideas of a painter 
were not more elevated at that time, I readily acqui- 
esced, and put quite out of my head the offer of the 
good Administrator. 

Meanwhile those persons of the upper classes, whose 
notice I had once attracted, did not forget me, but 
strove to aid me in various ways. I was permitted to 
take lessons with the few children of that rank ; and 
thus learned French, a little Latin, and music: they 
ilso provided me with better clothing, and the worthy 



12 



ECKERMANN. 



Superintendent, Parisius, did not disdain to give me a 
seat at his own table. 

I loved school very much, and all went on happily 
till my sixteenth year, when, after my confirmation, 
it became a serious question what should be done with 
me. Could I have obeyed my wishes, I should have 
gone to pursue my studies at a Gymnasium ; but this 
was out of the question, as I was not only destitute of 
means, but felt myself imperiously called upon, as soon 
as possible, to get into some situation where I could 
not only take care of myself, but help my parents, who 
were so poor, and now advanced in years. 

At this time a Counsellor of the place offered to 
take me to do copying and other little services for 
him, and I joyously consented. I had, during the 
year and a half of my school instruction, taken great 
pains, not only to form a good hand, but to improve in 
composition, so that I considered myself qualified for 
such a situation. This office, in which I also learned 
to transact some details of a lawyer's business, I kept 
till 1810, when old arrangements were broken up, 
and Winsen on the Lühe taken into the department 
of Lower Elbe, and incorporated with the French 
empire. 

I then received an appointment at Lüneburg, and 
the following year one at Ulzen. At the close of the 
year 1812, I was made secretary of the Mayoralty at 
Bevensen, where I remained till, in the spring of 1813, 
the approach of the Cossacs gave us hopes of being 
freed from the French yoke. 

I now returned home, with the intention of joining 
one of those companies which already were secretly 



INTRODUCTION. 



13 



forming to fight in our country's cause. Accordingly, 
the last days of summer found me a volunteer in the 
Kielmannsegge Hussar Corps. In the regiment of 
Captain Knop I made the campaign of the winter of 
1813-14, through Mecklenburg, Holstein, and before 
Hamburg, against Marshal Davoust. Afterwards we 
crossed the Rhine against General Maison, and passed 
the summer in the fertile provinces of Flanders and 
Brabant. 

Here, at sight of the great pictures of the Nether- 
lands, a new world opened to me ; I passed whole days 
in churches and museums. These were the first pic- 
tures I ever saw. I understood now what was meant 
by being a painter. I saw the honored, happy progress 
of the scholar, and I could have wept that I was not 
permitted to pursue that path. I took my resolution 
at once ; I became acquainted with a young artist of 
Tournay ; I obtained black crayons and a sheet of 
drawing-paper of the largest size, and sat down to 
copy a picture. My enthusiasm supplied the deficien- 
cies in practice and instruction. I succeeded in the 
outlines of the figures, and had begun to shade the 
whole from the left side, when marching orders broke 
up my happy employment. I hastened to mark the 
gradations of light and shade in the still unfinished 
parts with single characters, hoping that I might yet 
go on in some tranquil hour. I then rolled up my 
picture, and put it in a quiver, which I carried hanging 
at my back with my gun, all the way from Tournay to 
Hameln. 

Here, in the autumn of 1814, the Hussar corps was 
disbanded. I went home ; my father was dead ; my 



14 



ECKERMANN. 



eldest sister had married, and my mother lived with 
her, in the house where I had been brought up. I 
began now to pursue my plans for drawing. I com- 
pleted first the picture I had brought from Brabant ; 
and then, as I had no proper models, I copied some 
little engravings of Ramberg's, with crayons, enlarging 
them in my copy. But now I felt the want of proper 
preparation. I had no idea of the anatomy either of 
men or animals ; I knew as little how to treat properly 
foliage or ground ; and it cost me unspeakable toil to 
make any thing look decently well by my own mode 
of proceeding. 

Thus I soon saw that, if I wished to become an 
artist, I must set to work in a different way, and that 
more of this groping about in the dark would only be 
lost labor. Now I longed to find a suitable master, 
and begin from the very beginning. 

The master whom I had in my eye was Ramberg, 
of Hanover, and it did not seem impossible for me to 
study with him, as a beloved friend of my earlier days 
lived at Hanover, who had repeatedly invited me to 
come to him there, and on whose assistance I could 
depend. So I knotted up my bundle, and took, in the 
winter of 1815, my walk of almost forty leagues, quite 
alone, over the heath and through the deep snow. I 
arrived at Hanover at the end of a few days, without 
accident 

I went immediately to Ramberg, and told him my 
wishes. After looking at what I had done, he seemed 
not to doubt my talent, yet he remarked that I must 
have bread first; that to get acquainted with the 
technical part of art would demand much time, and 



/ 



INTRODUCTION. 15 

that any hope of making my labors profitable in the 
way of a subsistence lay at a great distance. Mean- 
while, he showed himself willing to help me in his 
way as much as he could ; he looked up immediately, 
for my first studies, drawings of parts of the human 
body, and gave them to me to copy. 

So I lived with my friend, and drew under Ramberg. 
I made good progress, and found the objects of my 
pursuit grow daily more and more interesting. I drew 
every part of the human frame, and was never weary 
of trying to conquer the difficulties I found in the 
hands and feet. So passed some happy months. In 
May my health began to give way ; in June my hands 
trembled so much I could no longer hold a pencil. 

I consulted a physician, and he thought me in a 
dangerous situation. He said that I was in great 
danger of a fever, recommended warm baths, and 
similar remedies. I soon grew better, but found I 
must not think of resuming my late occupations. My 
friend had treated me constantly in the most affec- 
tionate manner ; he gave no intimation, and had no 
thought, indeed, that I either had been, or might be, 
a burden to him. But I could not forget it, and such 
thoughts had contributed to my illness. I saw that 
I must take some decided course to earn a livelihood, 
and an appointment under the Board of Commissioners 
for clothing the Hanoverian army being at this time 
open to me, I accepted it, and gave up my devotion 
to Art. 

My recovery was soon completed, and with a better 
state of body came a cheerfulness and serenity of mind 
to which I had long been a stranger. I found myself 



16 



ECKERMANN. 



able, in some measure, to requite the kindness my 
friends had shown me. The novelty of the services 
I was now called on to perform, obliged me to fix my 
thoughts upon them. My superiors I found men of the 
noblest views, and with my colleagues, some of whom 
had made the campaign in the same corps with me, 
I was soon on a footing of cordial intimacy. 

Being now fairly settled, I took great pleasure in 
seeing whatever of good this place contained, and, 
when I had leisure hours, in visiting its beautiful 
environs. One of Ramberg's scholars, a promising 
young artist, was my intimate friend and constant 
companion. And, since I was forced to give up the 
practice of Art, it was a great solace that I could 
daily converse about it. He showed me all his 
designs, and I took the greatest interest in talking 
them over with him. He introduced me to many 
instructive works ; I read Winckelmann and Mengs, 
but, for want of acquaintance with the objects which 
they discuss, I could only appreciate generalities in 
their works, and was not benefited as I might have 
been, if such objects could have been brought under 
my eye. 

My friend, who had been brought up in the city, 
was in advance of me in every kind of mental culture, 
and had, what I entirely wanted, considerable acquaint- 
ance with elegant literature. At that time, Theodore 
Körner was the venerated hero of the day. My friend 
brought me the " Lyre and Sword," which made a 
deep impression on me, and excited my admiration. 
Much has been said of the artistical effect of poems, 
and many attach to it the highest value ; but, after all, 



INTRODUCTION. 



17 



the choice of the materials is of the first importance. 
Unconsciously, I experienced this in reading the 
" Lyre and Sword." For, that I had shared with 
Körner his abhorrence of those who had been our 
oppressors for so many years • that I too had fought 
for our freedom, had been familiar with those difficult 
marches, nightly bivouacs, outpost service, and battles, 
and amid them all had been filled with thoughts and 
feelings similar to his, — this it was which gave to 
these poems so deep and powerful an echo in my heart. 
But, as nothing impressed me much without exciting 
the desire to produce in the same kind, I now 
bethought me that I too had in earlier years written 
little poems without having attached any importance 
to the circumstance ; for a certain ripeness is required 
for appreciation of poetical talent. This talent now 
appearing in Körner as something enviable and noble, 
I felt a great desire to try what I could do in the same 
department. 

The return of our army from France afforded me 
a suitable subject, and, as my remembrances of all 
the soldier must undergo in the field were still fresh, 
I thought I might, by a forcibly-expressed comparison 
between his situation and that of the citizen who has 
remained in his comfortable home, produce feelings 
which would prepare for the returning troops a cordial 
reception. 

I had several hundred copies of this poem printed 
at my own expense, and distributed through the town. 
The effect produced was favorable beyond my expecta- 
tions. New and pleasant acquaintances pressed about 
me to declare their sympathy with the views and 

B2 



t8 



ECKERMANN. 



feelings I had uttered, and their opinion that I had 
given proof of a talent which deserved further 
cultivation. The poem was copied into periodicals, 
and reprinted in many other places ; I even had the 
pleasure of seeing it set to music by a favorite 
composer, though ill adapted for singing on account 
of its length and rhetorical style. 

No week passed now in which I did not find some 
new occasion for a poem. I was now in my four- 
and-twentieth year ; within me, a world of feelings, 
impulses, and good-will, was in full action ; but I was 
entirely deficient in information and culture. The 
study of our great poets was recommended to me, 
especially of Schiller and Klopstock. I did read 
and admire, without receiving much assistance from, 
their works ; the reason of which truly was, though 
I did not at that time understand it, that their path 
did not coincide with the natural tendency of my 
mind. 

At this time, I first heard the name of Goethe, 
and got sight of a volume of his poems. In reading 
his poems again and again, I enjoyed a happiness 
which no words can express. I seemed, for the first 
time in my life, to be truly awake, and conscious of 
my existence; my own inmost soul, till then unknown 
even to myself, seemed to be reflected from these 
poems. Nowhere did I meet any merely learned or 
foreign matter to which my simple individual thoughts 
and feelings gave no response ; nowhere, names of 
outlandish and obsolete divinities, which to me said 
nothing ; but here I found the human heart, with its 
desires, its joys and sorrows. I found a German 



INTRODUCTION. 



10 



nature, clear as the day on which I am writing these 
words, — pure reality in the light of a mild glorifi- 
cation. 

I lived whole weeks and months absorbed in these 
poems. Then I obtained " Wilhelm Meister," and 
" Goethe's Life;" then his dramas. "Faust," from 
whose abysses of human nature and perdition, I at 
first, shuddering, drew back, but whose profound 
enigmatical character again attracted me, I read always 
in holidays. My admiration and love for Goethe 
increased daily, till I could think and speak of nothing 
else. 

A great writer may benefit us in two ways : by 
revealing to us the mysteries of our own souls, or by 
making obvious to us the wonders of the external 
world. Goethe did both for me. I was led to closer 
observation in both ways ; and the idea of unity, the 
harmony and completeness of each individual object 
within itself, and the meaning of the manifold 
apparitions of nature and art, opened upon me daily 
more and more. 

After long study of this poet, and various attempts 
to reproduce in poetry what I had gained, I turned to 
some of the best writers of other times and countries, 
and read not only Shakspeare, but Sophocles and 
Homer, in excellent translations. 

I soon perceived that in these sublime works I 
could only appreciate what is universal in humanity. 
For the understanding of particulars, a sort of knowl- 
edge is required, which is given by an apprenticeship in 
schools and universities. Indeed, I saw on every side 
indications that I was wasting much time and toil, for 



20 



ECKERMANN 



since, without the discipline of a classical education, no 
poet will write in his native language with elegance and 
expression, or perform any thing of superior excel- 
lence. I saw, too, in the biographies of distinguished 
men, of which I read many at this time, how they all 
had recourse to schools and colleges, and determined 
that neither my manly age, nor the many obstacles 
which surrounded me, should prevent my doing the 
same. I engaged one of the tutors in the Hanover 
Gymnasium to give me private lessons in Latin and 
Greek, on which languages I spent all the time left me 
by the hours (at least six a day) claimed from me by 
my office. 

Thus passed a year. I made good progress, yet was 
dissatisfied, and began to think that I went on too 
slowly, and should pass four or five hours daily in the 
Gymnasium, if I would be penetrated by the atmosphere 
of learning. The advice of intelligent friends favored 
this plan, and my superiors did not oppose it, as the 
hours for the Gymnasium were those in which I was 
usually disengaged. I applied for admission. The 
worthy director conducted my examination with the 
utmost kindness ; but I did not appear as well as I 
deserved, not being accustomed to the routine of 
school questions. But, on the assurance of my 
teacher, that I was in fact tolerably well prepared, 
and in consideration of my unusual efforts, I was 
admitted. I need scarcely say, that a man of twenty- 
five, and one already employed in the king's service, 
made but an odd figure among mere boys, and that 
my situation was, at first, strange and unpleasant ; but 
my great thirst for knowledge enabled me to overlook 



INTRODUCTION. 



2] 



all such considerations. And, on the whole, I had no 
cause for complaint. The tutors esteemed me, the 
elder and better scholars treated me in the most 
friendly manner, and even the most licentious abstained 
from playing their tricks on me. 

I was very happy in the attainment of my object, 
and proceeded with vigor in my new path. I rose at 
five in the morning to prepare my lessons. At eight 
I went to the school, and staid till ten. Thence 
I hastened to my office, where I was engaged till one 
in my business. I then flew home, dined hastily, and 
then again to school. From thence I returned at four 
to my office, where I was occupied till seven. The 
remainder of the evening I gave to preparation or 
private instruction. 

Thus lived I some months ; but my strength was 
unequal to such exertions, and I soon experienced the 
truth of the saying, " No man can serve two masters." 
Want of free air, and of time and peace of mind for 
exercise, food, and sleep, gradually undermined my 
health, till, at last, I found myself so paralyzed, both 
in body and mind, that I must give up either the 
school or my office. As my subsistence depended on 
the latter, I had no choice, and left the school in the 
spring of 1817. As I saw it was my destiny to try 
many things, I did not repent of the effort I had made. 
Indeed, I had learned much, and continued my private 
lessons, still having the University in view. 

Having now more leisure, I extremely enjoyed the 
spring and summer. I was much in the open country, 
and nature this year said more than ever to my heart. 
From this intercourse many poems took rise, in writing 



22 



ECKERMANN. 



which, Goethe's high example was ever floating before 
my thought. 

This winter I began seriously to plan entering the 
University within a year. I was so well advanced 
in Latin, that I had written metrical translations of 
parts of Horace's Odes, Virgil's Eclogues, and Ovid's 
Metamorphoses, and could read, with considerable 
fluency, Cicero's Orations and Caesar's Commentaries. 
Although much was to be done, yet I had hopes of 
being so far fitted that I might enter the University 
within a year, and there make good all my deficien- 
cies. 

My patrons in the city promised me their aid, on 
condition I would direct my studies towards some 
profession which might gain me a livelihood. But, 
as I felt for this no vocation, and as I was firmly 
convinced that man must in such matters steadily 
consult the wants of his nature, I could not do as they 
desired, and, as they would not help me on other 
terms, was obliged to betake myself to my own 
resources. 

Müllner's drama of the Schuld, and the Ahnfrau of 
Grillparzer, were the talk of that day. These plays 
displeased my natural taste as works of art ; still less 
could I relish their idea of destiny, which seemed to 
me likely to produce a pernicious effect on public 
morals. I resolved to take the other side, and show 
that character makes its own destiny. After thinking 
over my proposed piece a good year, and fashioning 
many parts in my mind, I wrote it out finally during 
the winter of 1820, in the morning hours of a few 
weeks. I was very happy in doing this, for the whole 



INTRODUCTION. 



29 



flowed out easily and naturally. But, in my opposition 
to the above-named poets, I had my eye too steadily 
fixed on real life, and did not sufficiently keep in view 
that I was writing for a theatre. Thus it had too 
little action, and too much the tranquil air of a mere 
drawing of characters. Subordinate persons had too 
much room, and the whole piece too much breadth. 

I showed it to some of my intimates, but was not 
received as I wished ; they said I had read too little to 
be fitted for such an enterprise, and that many scenes 
belonged properly to the province of comedy. At first 
I felt aggrieved, but was, after a while, convinced that 
my friends were in the right, and that my piece, 
though not without merit, was unfit for representation. 
I determined to keep it by me, and remodel it when 
I should be more ripe for such an undertaking. My 
anxiety to go to the University being now greater than 
ever, I resolved to publish my poems, and try if I 
could not, by this means, gain a sufficient sum to 
defray my expenses. This was done by subscription, 
as I had not that established reputation which would 
enable me to secure a publisher ; and, through the 
kindness of my friends, it had the desired effect. 

My superiors, finding that my wishes were decided, 
gave me my dismission, and, through the kindness 
of the then Colonel von Berger, even allowed me a 
hundred and fifty dollars yearly for two years, to aid 
me in the prosecution of my studies. 

From my poems I received a hundred and fifty 
dollars, after payment of all costs, and went to Göt- 
tingen in May, 1821, leaving behind a maiden whom 
I dearly loved. 



24 



ECKERMANN. 



I had failed in my first efforts to reach the University 
because I refused to give myself to the study of any 
one profession. But now, grown wiser, and feeling 
myself unequal to contend with the infinite obstacles 
of another course, I yielded to the powerful world, and 
chose jurisprudence. 

My patrons, who thought only of my worldly pros- 
perity, and had no idea of my intellectual wants and 
cravings, thought me now quite reasonable, and were 
liberal of kindness and assistance. They observed to 
me, in confirmation of my good intentions, that this 
study would have the greatest tendency to cultivate my 
mind ; that I should thus gain insight into civil and 
social relations, such as I could attain in no other 
way ; that this study would not engross me, or hinder 
my pursuing the so called higher studies ; and they 
told me of various celebrated persons, who had studied 
law, and also attained great excellence in other de- 
partments. But neither my counsellors nor myself 
sufficiently considered that such men came to the 
University much better prepared than I, and had, 
besides, much more time to pass there than the 
imperious necessity of my circumstances would permit 
to me. By deceiving others, I succeeded in deceiving 
myself also, and really hoped that I might study law, 
and, at the same time, accomplish my own objects. 

Under this illusion, I began to seek what I had no 
wish to possess, and found the study so easy and 
pleasant, that, if my head had not been already full 
of other plans and wishes, I could willingly have given 
myself up to it. But I was like a maiden, who finds 
abundant reasons for rejecting an advantageous mar- 



INTRODUCTION. 



25 



riage, because she secretly cherishes a preconceived 
attachment. 

At the professional lectures, I was often absorbed in 
inventing scenes and acts for a new drama. I sincere- 
ly tried to fix my attention on what was before me, but 
with small success. I really thought of nothing but 
poetry and art, and the higher human culture to attain 
which I had for years longed to be at the University. 

Heeren was the person who did most for me during 
this first year at the University. His clear enunciation 
of his opinions in ethnography and history made his 
lectures delightful to me. I never left one without 
being penetrated with the highest admiration for this 
illustrious man. 

Next year I proceeded in a really reasonable manner, 
by setting aside entirely the study of jurisprudence, 
one too important to be made subordinate to others, 
and which I could not bring myself to regard as my 
principal object. I devoted much of my time to 
philology, and was now as largely indebted to Dissen, 
as I had been the year before to Heeren. I not only 
received from his lectures the sort of food my mind 
most needed and desired, — not only received from him 
the clearest and most important instructions as to my 
future works, — but I had the happiness of becoming 
acquainted with this excellent man, and of receiving 
from him, in private, guidance and encouragement. 

My daily intercourse with the best minds among 
the students, our conversations on the noblest subjects 
during our walks and late at night, were to me 
invaluable, and exercised a most favorable influence on 
the development of my faculties. 

c 



26 



ECKERMANN. 



The end of my pecuniary means drew near. But 
I felt, that, during the past months, I had accumulated 
daily new treasures of knowledge ; and to heap more 
together, without learning by practice how to apply it, 
would not have suited me. My earnest desire now 
was, by some literary undertaking, at once to make 
myself free, and sharpen my appetite for further 
study. 

I left the University in the autumn of 1822, and 
took lodgings in the country near Hanover. My 
mind was now engaged in the thoughts which my 
labors had suggested to me upon the theory of Poetry. 
I wrote a treatise which I hoped might aid youthful 
talent, not only in production, but in criticising the 
works of others, and gave it the title of Beyträge zur 
Poesie. 1 

In May, 1823, I completed this work. As I needed 
not only a good publisher, but one who would pay me 
well, I took the resolution to send my work to Goethe, 
and ask him to say some words to Cotta in its 
favor. 

Goethe was still, as formerly, the poet whom I daily 
looked to as my polar star, whose utterance harmonized 
with my thought, and led me constantly to a higher and 
higher point of view ; whose admirable skill in treat- 
ment of such various subjects I was ever striving to 
understand and imitate ; and towards whom my love 
and veneration rose to an almost impassioned height. 

Soon after my arrival in Göttingen, I had sent him a 
copy of my poems, accompanied by a slight sketch 



1 Contributions to Poetry. 



INTRODUCTION. 



27 



of the progress of my life and culture. 1 had the 
great joy, not only to receive in answer some lines 
written by his own hand, but to hear from travellers 
that he had a good opinion of me, and proposed 
noticing my work in one of the volumes of Kunst und 
Alterthum. 1 

This gave me courage to show him my manuscript 
now. I had, indeed, no other desire at present, than 
to be honored by his personal acquaintance ; to attain 
which object, about the end of May, I set forth on foot 
for Weimar. 

During this journey, which the heat of the weather 
made one of much fatigue, I was sustained by a feeling 
that kindly powers were guiding me, and that the step 
I was now taking would be one of great importance to 
my success in life. 

1 Art and Antiquity. 



CONVERSATIONS. 



CONVERSATIONS. 



1823. 

Weimar, Tuesday, 10th June. 

I arrived here some days since, but did not see 
Goethe till to-day. He received me with great cor- 
diality; and the impression he made on me during our 
interview was such, that I consider this day as the 
happiest of my life. 

Yesterday, when I called to inquire, he said he 
should be glad to see me to-day, at twelve o'clock. 
I went at the appointed time, and found a servant 
waiting to conduct me to him. 

The interior of the house impressed me very pleas- 
antly ; it was not showy, but simple and noble in its 
arrangements ; the casts from antique statues, placed 
upon the stairs, indicated Goethe's partiality for the 
plastic art, and for Grecian antiquity. I saw several 
women busily engaged in the lower part of the house, 
and one of Ottilia's beautiful boys, who came frankly 
up to me, and looked fixedly in my face. 

After I had cast a glance around, I ascended with 
the talkative servant to the first floor. He opened a 
room, on whose threshold the motto Salve bid me 
anticipate a friendly welcome. He led me through 
this apartment into another, somewhat more spacious, 



32 ECKERMANN. 

where he requested me to wait, while he went to 
announce my arrival to his master. The air was cool 
and refreshing ; on the floor was spread a carpet ; the 
room was prettily furnished with a crimson sofa and 
ottomans ; on one side stood a piano ; and the walls 
were adorned with many pictures and drawings, of 
various sorts and sizes. 

Through the open door, I saw yet another room, 
also hung with pictures, through which the servant had 
gone to announce me. 

Goethe soon came in, dressed in a blue coat, and 
with shoes. His appearance was full of dignity, and 
made a surprising impression on me. But he soon put 
me at ease by the kindest words. We sat down on the 
sofa. I felt so happy, and yet so overcome, by his 
look and his presence, that I could say little or 
nothing. 

He began by speaking of my manuscripts. " I 
have," said he, " been reading them all the morning ; 
they need no recommendation — they recommend them- 
selves." He praised the clearness of the statements, 
the flow of the thought, the solid basis on which the 
whole rested, and the thorough manner in which the 
whole subject had been thought out. " I am in haste 
to promote the affair," said he ; " to-day I shall write 
to Cotta by post, and send him the parcel by the coach 
to-morrow." I thanked him with words and looks. 

We then talked of my proposed excursion. I told 
him that my design was to go into the Rhineland, and 
stay where I could find a suitable place for writing. 
Meanwhile, I would go to Jena, and await Cotta's 
answer. 



CONVERSATIONS. 



33 



Goethe asked whether I had friends in Jena. I 
replied that I hoped for the acquaintance of Herr von 
Knebel ; on which he promised me a letter which 
should insure me a favorable reception from that 
gentleman. " And, indeed," said he, " while you are 
in Jena, we shall be near neighbors, and can see or 
write to one another as often as we please." 

We sat a long while together, in tranquil, affection- 
ate harmony. I was close to him ; I forgot to speak 
for looking at him, and yet could not look enough. 
His face is so powerful and brown, full of wrinkles, 
and each wrinkle full of expression, and every where 
such nobleness and firmness, such repose and greatness ! 
He speaks in a slow, composed manner, such as you 
would expect from an aged monarch. You perceive 
by his air that he leans upon himself, and is elevated 
far above both praise and blame. I was extremely 
happy near him. I felt the blissful tranquillity of one 
who, after many toils and tedious expectations, finally 
sees his dearest wishes gratified. 

He spoke, too, of my letter, and remarked that I 
was perfectly right in thinking, that, to manage any 
one affair with decision and ability, one should be 
fitted to act in various other departments. 

" No one can tell how things may draw and turn," 
said he ; "I have many good friends in Berlin, and 
thought of you in that connection." Then he smiled 
pleasantly at some thought which he did not express. 
He pointed out to me what was best worth seeing in 
Weimar, and said he would desire secretary Kräuter to 
be my cicerone. Above all, I must not fail to visit the 
theatre. He asked where I lodged, saying that he 



:34 



ECKERMANN. 



should like to see me once more, and would send for 
me at a suitable time. 

We bid an affectionate farewell. I, on my side, was 
supremely happy ; for every word of his spoke kind- 
ness, and I felt that he had a favorable opinion of me. 

Wednesday, 11th June, 1823. 

This morning I received a note from Goethe, written 
by his own hand, desiring me to come to him. I went 
and staid an hour. He seemed quite a different man 
from that of yesterday, and had the impetuous and 
decided manner of a youth. 

He entered, bringing two thick books. " It is not 
well," said he, " that you should pass from us so soon ; 
let us become better acquainted. I wish more ample 
opportunity to see and talk with you. But, as the field 
of generalities is so wide, I have thought of something 
in particular, which may serve as a ground-work for 
intercourse. These two volumes contain the Frankfort 
literary notices of the years 1772 and 1773, among 
which are almost all my little pieces of criticism, 
written at that time. These are not marked ; but, as 
you are familiar with my style and tone of thought, 
you will easily discriminate them from the others. I 
would have you examine with care these youthful 
productions, and tell me what you think of them. I 
wish to know whether they deserve a place in a future 
edition of my works. They stand so far from my 
present self, that I am not competent to judge them. 
But you, younger people, can tell whether they are to 
you of any value, and whether they suit our present 
literary point of view. I have had copies taken of 



CONVERSATIONS. 



35 



them already, which you can have by and by to 
compare with the originals. We will also take a 
careful survey, and ascertain whether here and there 
something might not be left out, or something added, 
with advantage, and without injuring the genuine 
character of the whole." 

I replied that I would gladly make the attempt, and 
that nothing could gratify me more than adequately to 
fulfil his design. 

" You will find yourself perfectly competent," said 
he, " when you have once entered on the employment ; 
it will be very easy to you." 

He then told me that he should probably set off for 
Marienbad in a few days, and that he should be glad 
if I could remain at Weimar up to that time, that we 
might see one another at our ease, and become better 
acquainted. 

" I wish, too," said he, " that you should not merely 
pass a few days or weeks in Jena, but live there till I 
return from Marienbad in the autumn. Already I have 
written to bespeak for you a proper home, and other 
things necessary to make your stay convenient and 
pleasant. 

" You will find there, in the greatest variety, means 
and materials for higher attainments, and a very culti- 
vated social circle ; besides, the country presents such 
various aspects, that you may have fifty walks, each 
different from the others, each pleasant, and almost all 
suited for undisturbed indulgence in meditation. You 
will find there plenty of leisure and opportunity, not 
only to accomplish my designs, but to write many new 
things for yoursetf." 



36 



ECKERMANN. 



I could make no objections to such proposals, and 
consented joyfully to them all. He took a very 
affectionate farewell of me, and fixed an hour when we 
might meet again, to-morrow. 

Monday, 16th June, 1823. 

I have now had repeated interviews with Goethe. 
To-day we talked principally of business. I declared 
my opinion also of his Frankfort criticisms, naming 
them echoes of his academic years, which expression 
seemed to please him, as marking, with some precision, 
the point of view from which these youthful pro- 
ductions should be regarded. 

He gave me the first sheets of Kunst und Alter- 
thum, that I might take them with me to Jena, and 
begin upon them as soon as I should have finished my 
present task. 

" It is my wish," said he, " that you should study 
carefully these papers, and not only make a summary 
of their contents, but also take written notes on those 
subjects which do not seem to you to be satisfactorily 
discussed, that I may by this means see more clearly 
what thread I had best take up again and spin upon 
yet a while longer. I shall thus be greatly assisted, 
and you also ; since, in this practical way, you will far 
more sharply consider, and fully receive, the import of 
each particular treatise, than by any common perusal, 
regulated solely by inclination." 

I was well pleased by these remarks, and willingly 
undertook this labor also. 



CONVERSATIONS. 



37 



Thursday, 19th June, 1823. 
1 was to have gone to Jena to-day ; but Goethe 
yesterday requested earnestly that I would stay till 
Sunday, and then go with the post. He gave me 
yesterday the promised letters of recommendation, and 
also one for the family of Frommann. " You will 
enjoy their circle," said he ; " I have passed many 
delightful evenings there. Jean Paul, Tieck, the 
Schlegels, and all the other distinguished men of 
Germany, have visited them, and always with delight ; 
and now you will meet there many learned men, 
artists, and other persons of note. In a few weeks, 
write to me at Marienbad, that I may know how you 
are going on, and how you are pleased with Jena. 
I have requested my son to visit you there during my 
absence." 

I felt very grateful for so much care from Goethe, 
and very happy that he regarded me, and wished others 
should regard me, as appertaining to himself. 

Saturday, 21st June, then, I bid farewell to Goethe, 
and set off for Jena, where I established myself in a 
rural dwelling, with very good, respectable people. In 
the family of von Knebel and Frommann, I found, on 
Goethe's recommendation, a very cordial reception, 
and instructive society. I proceeded very successfully 
with my work, and had, besides, the joy to receive a 
letter from Cotta, in which he not only declared 
himself ready io publish my manuscript which had 
been sent him, but assured me of a handsome pecu- 
niary compensation. So was I now honorably provided 
with the means of subsistence for at least a year, and 
I felt the liveliest desire to produce something new, on 

D 



3* 



ECKERMANN. 



which to found my fifture prosperity as an author. 
I hoped that I had already, in my Bcyträge zur Poesie, 
taken my critical and theoretical ground. I had there 
endeavored to bring out my opinions upon the princi- 
ples of art, and my whole inner nature now urged me 
to test them in practice. I had plans for innumerable 
poems, both long and short, also for dramas of various 
sorts ; and I thought I had now only to choose among 
them with judgment, and peacefully to finish one after 
the other. 

I was not long content in Jena ; my life there was 
too quiet and uniform. I longed for a great city, not 
only because I should there enjoy the advantages of a 
good theatre, but because I might there observe social 
life on a great scale, and thence draw the elements of 
a more complete culture. In such a town, too, I could 
live quite undisturbed, and be free to isolate myself 
when ready to produce any thing. 

Meanwhile, I had drawn up the table which Goethe 
wished for the first four volumes of Kunst und Alter- 
thum, and sent it to Marienbad with a letter, in 
which I told my plans and wishes. I received in 
answer the following lines : — 

" The table arrived at the time when I most wanted it, 
and corresponds precisely with my wishes and inten- 
tions. Let me find the Frankfort papers equally well 
arranged, and receive beforehand my best thanks. 
Meanwhile, be assured, I shall faithfully remember and 
consider your situation, thoughts, wishes, aims, and 
plans, that, on my return, I may be ready to give my 
best advice as to your future conduct. To-day I will 



CONVERSATIONS. 



39 



say no more. My departure from Marienbad gives 
much to think of, and to do, while my stay, all too 
brief, with such interesting beings, must occasion 
painful feelings. 

" May I find you in that state of tranquil activity, 
from which, after all, the most comprehensive views 
of the world, and the most valuable experiences, are 
evolved. Farewell. You must give me the pleasure 
of a prolonged and more intimate acquaintance. 

" Goethe. 

"Marienbad, 19th August, 1823." 

By these lines of Goethe's, on the reception of which 
I felt very happy, I felt tranquillized as to the future. 
I determined to take no step for myself, but be wholly 
resigned to his will and counsel. Meanwhile, I wrote 
some little poems, finished arranging the Frankfort 
papers, and expressed my opinion of them in a short 
treatise, intended for the eye of Goethe. I looked 
forward with eagerness to his return from Marienbad ; 
for my book was almost through the press, and I felt a 
strong desire to refresh myself this autumn, by passing 
a few weeks on the banks of the Rhine. 

Jena, 15th September, 1823. 

Goethe is, at last, returned from Marienbad, but, as 
his country-house in this place is not convenient for 
him just now, he only staid here a few days. He is 
well and active, so that he can take very long walks, 
and it is truly delightful to see him now. 

After an interchange of joyful greetings, Goethe 
began to speak thus : — 



40 ECKERMANN. 

"I may as well say it at once; — it is my wish that 
you should pass this winter with me in Weimar. In 
poetry and criticism, I find you quite to my mind. 
You have, from nature, an excellent foundation. You 
should make of them your profession, and I doubt not 
you will soon derive from it a suitable income. But 
yet there is much, not strictly appertaining to this 
department, which you ought to learn, and that with 
all convenient speed. This you may do with us this 
winter in Weimar, to such advantage, that you will 
wonder, next Easter, to see what progress you have 
made. It is in my power to give you the very best 
means, in every way. Thus shall you lay a firm 
foundation for your future life, and have the pleasure 
of feeling yourself, in some measure, prepared for any 
situation." 

I was much pleased by this proposal, and replied, 
that I would regulate myself by his wishes in all 
things. "Then," said Goethe, "I will provide you 
with a home in my neighborhood, and venture to 
predict that you shall pass no unprofitable moment 
during the winter. Many good things are collected 
in Weimar, and you will gradually find out, in the 
higher circles, society not surpassed in any of the 
great cities. And many men of great worth are 
connected with me, whom you also will know, and 
whose conversation you will find in the highest degree 
useful and instructive." 

Goethe then mentioned many distinguished men, 
indicating in a few words the peculiar merit of 
each. 

" You would look in vain elsewhere," said he, " for 



CONVERSATIONS. 



11 



so much good in so narrow space. We also possess an 
excellent library, and a theatre which yields to none in 
Germany, in what is most important. Therefore, — let 
me repeat it, — stay with us, and not only this winter, 
but make Weimar your home. From thence proceed 
avenues to all quarters of the globe. In summer you 
can travel, and see, by degrees, whatever is worth 
seeing. I have lived here fifty years; and where else 
have I not been ? But I was always glad to return to 
Weimar." 

I was very happy in being again with Goethe, and 
hearing him talk, and I felt that my whole soul turned 
towards him. If I can only have thee, thought I, all 
else will go well. So I repeated to him the assurance 
that I was ready to do whatever he, after duly weighing 
the circumstances of my situation, should think best. 

Jena, Thursday, 18th September, 1823. 
Yesterday, before Goethe's return to Weimar, I had 
the happiness of another interview with him. What 
he said at that time seemed to me of infinite value, 
and will have a beneficent influence on all my after 
life. All the young poets of Germany should hear 
those words. 

He began by asking me whether I had written no 
poem this summer. I replied that I had indeed written 
a few, but had done nothing which satisfied me. 
" Beware," said he, " of attempting too large a work. 
That is what injures most our best minds, and prevents 
fine talents and earnest efforts from accomplishing 
adequate results. I have suffered from this cause, and 

D2 



42 



ECKERMA.VV. 



know how pernicious it is. What valuables I have let 
fall into the well ! If I had written all that I well 
might, a hundred volumes would not contain it. 

" The Present will have its rights ; and the thoughts 
and feelings which daily press upon the poet should 
find a voice. But, if you have a great work in your 
head, nothing else prospers near it, all other thoughts 
must be repelled, and the pleasantness of life is quite 
lost, till it is accomplished. What concentration of 
thought is required to plan and round it off as a whole 
within the mind, what powers, and what a tranquil, 
undisturbed situation, to make it flow out as it should ! 
If you have erred in your plan, all your toil is lost ; 
and if, in treating so extensive a subject, you are not 
perfectly master of your materials, the defects in 
details lay you open to censure ; and, after all his toil 
and sacrifice, the poet meets, instead of praise and 
pleasure, nothing but dissatisfaction and blame, which 
palsy his energies. But if he seizes and treats, in 
freshness of feeling, what the present moment offers 
him, he makes sure of something good, and if he does 
not succeed, has at least lost 'nothing. There is 
August Hagen, in Königsberg ; have you ever read 
his Olfried and Lisena ? There you may find passages 
which cannot be improved ; the situation on the Baltic, 
and all the particulars of the locality, are painted with 
the hand of a master. But, as a whole, it pleases 
nobody. And what labor and strength he has lavished 
upon it, indeed, has almost exhausted himself. And, 
since, he has been writing a tragedy." Here Goethe 
paused, and smiled. I said I believed he had advised 



CONVERSATIONS. 



43 



Hagen (in Kunst und Alterthum) to treat only 
small subjects. "I did so," he replied; "but nobody 
conforms to the instructions of us old people. Each 
thinks he knows best about himself, and thus many 
lose their way entirely, and many wander long in 
wrong directions ; and, besides, you should not wander 
now : we of a former day have done it long to find the 
true path for you ; and what was the use of all our 
seeking and blundering, if you young people will not 
avail yourselves of the experience we have gained 1 
Our errors were pardoned because no track had been 
opened for us ; but from men of a later day the world 
asks more : they must not be seeking and blundering, 
but use the instructions of their predecessors to enter 
at once on the right path. It is not enough to take 
steps which may sometimes lead to an aim ; each step 
must be in the right direction, and, at the same time, 
with each some separate object must be attained. 

" Bear these words away with you, and see if you 
cannot from them draw somewhat for yourself. Not 
that I feel troubled about you, but I may be able to 
abridge an unprofitable stage in your progress. Fix 
your attention on subjects which every day offers you, 
and on which yöu can work at once with earnestness 
and cheerfulness ; you will, in all probability, please 
yourself, and each day will bring its own peculiar joy. 
You can give what you do to the pocket-books, to the 
periodicals, but never submit yourself to the judgment 
of other minds ; your own is the only true guide. 

" The world is so great and rich, and life so full 
of variety, that you can never want occasions for 
poems. But they must all be occasional poems ; that 



44 



ECKERMANN. 



is to say, reality must give both impulse and material 
for their production. A particular case becomes 
universal and poetic when managed by a poet. All 
my poems are occasional poems, having in real life, 
by which they were suggested, a firm foundation. 
I attach no value to poems woven from the air. 

" Let no one say that reality wants poetical interest ; 
for in this doth the poet prove his vocation, that he has 
the art to win from a common subject an interesting 
side. Reality must give the impulse, the subject, the 
kernel, as I may say ; but to work out a beautiful, 
animated whole, belongs to the poet. You know 
Fürnstein, sometimes called the Poet of Nature ; he 
has written the prettiest poem imaginable, on the 
cultivation of hops. I have now desired him to make 
songs for the different crafts of working-men, particu- 
larly a weaver's song, and I am sure he will do it well, 
for he has been brought up among such people, and 
understands the subject so thoroughly, that he will 
treat it in a masterly manner. You cannot manage 
a great poem so ; no part can be slighted or evaded ; 
all which belongs to it as a whole must be interwoven 
and represented with precision.. Youth has only one- 
sided views of things. A great work asks many- 
sidedness, and on that rock the young author splits." 

I said that I had contemplated writing a great poem 
upon the seasons, in which I might interweave the 
employments and amusements of all classes. " 'Tis 
the very case," replied Goethe ; " you may succeed in 
parts, and fail in others, with which you have had no 
proper means of becoming acquainted. You, perhaps, 
would do the fisherman well, and the huntsman ill ; and 



CONVERSATIONS. 



45 



if you fail any where, the whole is a failure ; and, 
however good single parts may be, that will not atone 
for the want of completeness. But paint those parts to 
which you are competent, give each an independent 
being, and you make sure of something good. 

" More especially, I warn you against great inven- 
tions ; for there a comprehensive view is demanded, 
for which youth is seldom ripe. Further, character 
and views are loosened as sides from the poet's mind, 
and he has not the fulness desirable for future produc- 
tions. And, finally, much time is lost in invention, 
internal arrangement, and combination, for which 
nobody thanks you, even supposing your design be 
happily accomplished. 

" When materials are ready to the hand, all goes 
easier and better. Facts and characters being pro- 
vided, the poet has only the task of animating them 
into a whole. He preserves his proper fulness, for he 
needs to part with but little of himself, and there is 
much less loss of time and strength. Indeed, I would 
advise the choice of subjects which have been used 
before. How many Iphigenias have been written ! yet 
they are all different, for each writer manages the 
subject after his own fashion. 

" But, for the present, you had better lay aside all 
great undertakings. You have striven long enough; 
it is time that you should enter into the cheerful period 
of life. Working out small subjects will help you 
most at present." 

During the conversation, we had been walking up 
and down the room. I could do nothing but assent to 
what he said, for I felt the truth of each word through 



40 



ECKERMANN. 



my whole being. At each step I felt lighter and 
happier, for I must confess that various grand schemes, 
of which I had not as yet been able to take a clear 
view, had been oppressing me. I have now thrown 
them aside, and shall let them rest till I feel adequate 
to working out each part in cheerfulness, as by study 
of the world I become more intimately acquainted with 
the interests it presents. 

I feel, since these words of Goethe's, as if I had 
gone forward several years in true wisdom, and in the 
very depths of my soul acknowledge my good fortune 
in having met with a true master. Its advantages are 
incalculable. 

How much shall I learn from him this winter ! how 
much shall I gain merely from living with him, even 
in times when he does not speak upon subjects of such 
importance ! His personality, his mere presence, it 
seems to me, must tend to unfold my powers, even 
when he speaks not a word. 

Weimar, Thursday, 2d October, 1823. 

I came here yesterday from Jena, favored by most 
agreeable weather. Goethe welcomed me to Weimar, 
by sending me a season-ticket for the theatre. I passed 
yesterday in making my domestic arrangements ; and 
the rather, as they were very busy at Goethe's ; for the 
French Ambassador from Frankfort, Count Reinhard, 
and the Prussian State Counsellor, Shultz, from Berlin, 
had come to visit him. 

This forenoon I went again to Goethe. He was 
rejoiced to see me, and was every way kind and 
amiable. As I was about to take my leave, he said 



CONVERSATIONS. 



47 



he wished first to make me acquainted with the State 
Counsellor, Shultz. He took me into the next room, 
where I found that gentleman busy in looking at the 
pictures, introduced me, and then left us together. 

" I am very glad," said Shultz, " that you are to stay 
in Weimar, and assist Goethe in preparing his unpub- 
lished works for the press. He has been telling me 
how much profit he promises himself from your assist- 
ance, and that he now hopes to complete many new 
enterprises." 

I replied that I had no other aim in life except to 
aid the progress of German literature ; and that, in the 
hope of being useful here, I had willingly laid aside, 
for the present, my own literary designs. I added, that 
I hoped the constant intercourse, thus induced with 
Goethe, would have a most favorable effect on my own 
culture. I hoped, by this means, to ripen much in few 
years, and thus, in the end, to adequately perform 
tasks for which I was at present but imperfectly pre- 
pared. 

" Certainly," replied Shultz, " the personal influence 
of so extraordinary a man and master as Goethe, must 
be invaluable. I have come hither solely to refresh 
myself once more from his great mind." 

He then inquired about the publication of my book ; 
for Goethe had written to him last summer on that 
subject. I said that I hoped, in a few days, to receive 
the first copies from Jena, and would not fail to send 
him one. 

We separated with a cordial shake of the hand. 



48 



ECKERMANN. 



Tuesday, 14th October, 1823. 

This evening, I went for the first time to a large 
tea-party at Goethe's house. I arrived first, and 
enjoyed the view of the brilliantly lighted suite of 
apartments, all thrown open to-night. In one of the 
farthest, I found Goethe, who came to meet me, with a 
cheerful air. He was dressed in. black, and wore his 
star, which became him well. No guest having yet 
arrived, we walked together up and down the room, 
where the picture of the Aldobrandine Marriage, 
which was hung above the red couch, especially 
attracted my attention. The green curtains were now 
drawn aside from the picture ; it was in a broad light, 
and I was delighted to have such a good opportunity 
for tranquil contemplation of its beauty. 

" Yes," said Goethe, " the ancients did not content 
themselves with great intentions merely ; they knew 
also how to carry them into effect. We moderns have 
also great intentions, but want the skill and power to 
bring them out, full and lifelike as we thought them." 

Now came Riemer, Meyer, Chancellor von Müller, 
and many other distinguished gentlemen and ladies 
of the court, Goethe's son, and Frau von Goethe, with 
whom I was now, for the first time, made acquainted. 
The rooms filled gradually, and the scene became 
very animated. With some pretty youthful foreigners 
Goethe spoke French. 

The society pleased me, all were so free and perfect- 
ly at their ease ; each sat or stood, laughed, jested, and 
talked at pleasure. I had a lively conversation with 
the young Goethe about Houwald's piece, which was 
given a few days since. We agreed entirely about it, 



CONVERSATIONS. 



49 



and I was greatly pleased by the animation and refine- 
ment of his criticisms. 

Goethe made himself very agreeable. He went 
about from one to another, and seemed to prefer 
listening to talking. Frau von Goethe would often 
come and lean upon him, or caress him. I had lately 
said to him that I enjoyed the theatre highly, but that 
1 rather gave myself up to the impression of the piece 
than reflected upon it. This seemed to him the 
method best suited to my present state of mind. 

He came to me with Frau von Goethe. " I believe," 
said he, " you are not yet acquainted with my daughter 
in law. He is as much a child about the theatre as 
you, Ottilia ! " 

We exchanged congratulations upon this taste which 
we had in common. " My daughter," continued he, 
" is never absent from the theatre an evening." " That 
would be my way," said I, " if there were always good 
pieces ; but it is so tiresome to sit out the bad ! " 
" But," said Goethe, " it has a fine effect on you to be 
constrained to stay and hear what is bad. By this 
means, you are penetrated with the hatred for the bad, 
which gives you the clearest insight for the good. In 
reading, you have not this gain, — you throw aside the 
book, if it displeases you; but, at the theatre, you are 
forced to your own profit." I could not refuse my 
assent, and thought how always the sage finds occasion 
to say something good. 

We now separated. Goethe went to the ladies, and 
I joined Riemer and Meyer, who had many things to 
relate of Italy. The assembly became very gay. At 
length Counsellor Schmidt seated himself at the piano, 

E 



50 



ECKERMANN. 



and gave us some of Beethoven's music. These pieces, 
which were received with deep sympathy, led an intel- 
ligent lady to relate many interesting particulars of her 
acquaintance with the great composer. Ten o'clock 
came at last, and this, to me, extremely interesting 
evening ended. 

Sunday, 19th October, 1823. 

To-day, I dined for the first time with Goethe. No 
one was present except Frau von Goethe, her sister, 
Fraulein Ulrica, and little Walter. Goethe appeared 
now solely as father of the family, offered all dishes, 
carved the poultry with great dexterity, not forgetting 
between whiles to fill the glasses. We had much 
lively chat about the theatre, young English people, 
and other topics of the day ; especially was Fraulein 
Ulrica very lively and entertaining. Goethe was 
generally silent, only offering now and then some 
pertinent remark. He also read the newspapers, com- 
municating to us now and then what he thought most 
important, especially about the Greek cause. 

There was talk about my learning English, and 
Goethe earnestly advised me to do so, particularly on 
account of Lord Byron ; saying, that such a being had 
never before appeared, and hardly would be reproduced. 
After dinner, Goethe showed me some experiments 
relating to his theory of colors. The whole subject 
was new to me ; I neither understood the experiments, 
nor what he said about them. I could only hope that 
I should have leisure and opportunity to inquire further 
into the matter. 



CONVERSATIONS. 



51 



Tuesday, 21st October. 

I went to see Goethe this evening. We talked of 
his " Pandora." I asked him whether this poem might 
now be regarded as a whole, or whether we were to 
look for something farther. He said there was no more 
in existence, and, indeed, that the first part was on 
so large a scale, that, at a later period, he could do 
nothing to match it. And, as what was done might be 
regarded as a whole, he did not trouble himself. 

I said that I could not understand this difficult poem 
till I had read it so many times as almost to know it by 
heart. Goethe smiled, and said, " I can well believe 
that ; for all its parts are, as one may say, wedged one 
within another." I added, that 1 could not be perfect- 
ly satisfied with Schubarth's remarks upon this poem, 
who found there united all which had been said separate- 
ly in " Werther," " Wilhelm Meister," and the " Elective 
Affinities," thus making the interpretation difficult, and 
almost impossible. " Schubarth," said Goethe, " some- 
times goes a little too deep, but is a man -of great 
abilities, and his words are always fraught with deep 
meaning." 

We spoke of Unland, . and Goethe said, " When I 
see great effects, I am apt to suppose great causes; 
and I think there must be a reason for popularity so 
extensive as that of Unland. I took up his book with 
the best intentions, but fell immediately on so many 
weak and gloomy poems that I could not proceed. I 
then tried his ballads, where I really did find distin- 
guished talent, and could see a basis for his celebrity." 



52 



ECKERMANN. 



He was then led to speak of the ancient German 
architecture. 

" We see in this architecture," he said, " the flower 
of an extraordinary crisis. Who merely looks on such 
a flower will feel nothing but astonishment ; while he 
who sees into the secret, inner life of the plant, into 
the stirring of its powers to unfold the flower, looks 
with other eyes, for he knows what he sees. 

" I will take care that you have means this winter 
of inquiring into a subject so important, that when 
you visit the Rhine next summer, you may not see the 
Minster of Strasburg and the Cathedral of Cologne 
in vain." 

Saturday, 25th October, 1823. 

At twilight, I passed half an hour with Goethe. He 
sat in an elbow-chair before his desk. I found him in 
a singularly gentle mood, as one who has attained 
celestial peace, or who is recalling delicious hours, 
whose sweetness fills his soul as when they first were 
his. Stadelman gave me a seat near him. We talked 
of the theatre, which was, indeed, one of the topics 
uppermost in my mind all this winter. Our subject 
was a piece of Raupach's, (Erdennacht,) which I had 
lately seen. I observed that the piece was not brought 
before us as it existed in the mind of the poet ; that the 
Idea was too much for the Life ; that it was rather lyric 
than dramatic ; and that what was spun out through five 
acts might as well have been said in two or three. 

I then spoke of those pieces of Kotzebue's which 
I had seen. I praised the quick eye for common life, 
the dexterity at seizing its interesting side, and repre- 



CONVERSATIONS. 



53 



senting it with force, which I found in these pieces. 
Goethe agreed with me. " What has kept its place for 
twenty years in the hearts of the people," said he, 
" is pretty sure to have substantial merit. When 
Kotzebue contented himself with his own sphere, he 
usually did well. 'Twas the same with him as with 
Chodowiecky, who always struck off admirably the 
scenes of common citizens' life, and as regularly 
failed when he attempted to paint Greek or Roman 
heroes." 

He named several good pieces of Kotzebue's, 
praising most highly the two Klingsbergs. " And," 
said he, "none can deny that Kotzebue has been in 
many varied scenes of life, and ever kept both eyes 
open. 

" Intellect, and even poetry, cannot be denied to 
our modern composers of tragedy ; but they do not 
give their subject the hues of life; they strive after 
something beyond their powers; and for that reason 
I have been led to think of them as having forced 
talents; — their growth is not natural." " I doubt," 
said I, " whether such poets could write a prose work, 
and am of opinion that this would be the true test of 
their talents." Goethe agreed with me, adding that 
versification not only enhanced, but often called out 
poetic feeling. 

We then talked of his " Journey through Frankfort 
and Stuttgard to Switzerland," which he has lying by 
him in sheets, and which he will send me, in order that 
I may examine it, and plan how these fragments shall 
be rounded into a whole. " You will see," said he, 
" that it was all written out from the impulse of the 

E 3 



54 



ECKERMANN. 



moment; there was no thought of plan or artistical 
harmony ; it was like pouring water from a bucket." 

Monday, 27th October. 

To-day, early, I was invited to a tea-party and 
concert, which were to be given at Goethe's house 
this evening. The servant showed me the list of 
guests whom he was to invite, from which I saw that 
the company would be large and brilliant. He said a 
young Polish lady, who has lately arrived here, would 
play on the piano. I accepted the invitation gladly. 

Afterwards, the bill for the theatre was brought, and 
I saw that the " Chess-machine" was the piece for the 
evening. I knew nothing of this piece ; but my land- 
lady was so lavish in praise of it, that I was seized 
with a great desire to attend. Besides, I was not at 
my best to-day, and felt more fit to pass my evening 
at an entertaining comedy than to play a part in good 
society. 

An hour before the theatre opened I went to Goethe. 
All was in movement throughout the house. I heard 
them tuning the piano, as preparation for the musical 
entertainment. 

I found Goethe alone in his chamber; he was 
already dressed. I seemed to him to have arrived at 
the right moment. " You shall stay with me," he said, 
" and we will entertain one another till our friends join 
us." I thought, " Now shall I not be able to get 
away, and I am sorry ; for, though it is very pleasant 
to be here with Goethe alone, yet, when the many to 
me unknown gentlemen and ladies come, I shall feel 
quite out of my element." 



CONVERSATIONS. 



55 



I walked up and down with Goethe. Soon we were 
led to talk about the theatre, and I again remarked 
how great a pleasure it gave me; for, having seen 
scarce any thing in early years, almost every piece 
made a fresh impression upon me. " Indeed," added 
I, " I feel so much about it, that I have scarcely to-day 
been able to resolve to give it up, even for your party." 

" Well," said Goethe, stopping short, and looking 
at me with an expression of mingled kindness and 
dignity, " do not constrain yourself; if the play this 
evening suits you best, harmonizes most perfectly with 
your mood, go there. You would have good music 
here, and will often again have opportunity to hear it 
at my house." " Then," said I, " I will go ; for I 
think it may do me good to laugh." " Stay with me, 
however," said Goethe, " till six o'clock ; we shall 
have time to say a word or two." 

Stadelman set two wax-lights on the table, and 
Goethe desired me to sit down, and he would give me 
something to read. And what should this be but his 
newest, dearest poem, his Elegy, from Marienbad ! 

I must here mention, that, after Goethe's return 
from Marienbad, the report had been spread, that he 
had there made the acquaintance of a young lady 
equally charming in mind and person, and had shown 
for her an even passionate admiration. When her 
voice was heard in the Brunnen Allee, he always 
seized his hat, and hastened to join her. He was 
constantly in her society, and there passed happy days ; 
he had not bid her farewell without great pain, and 
had, in this excited state, written a beautiful poem, 



56 



ECKERMANN. 



which he looked upon as a consecrated thing, and kept 
hid from every eye. 

I could easily believe all this, seeing, as I did, his 
youthful activity of body and mind, and the healthy 
freshness of his heart. I had had the most longing 
desire to see the poem which was now in my hands, 
but had never dared to speak to Goethe on the subject. 

He had, with his own hand, copied these verses, in 
Roman characters, on fine vellum paper, and tied them 
with riband into a red morocco case ; so that, from its 
garb, you might gather how decided was his preference 
for this poem. 

I read it with great delight, and found that every 
line confirmed the common report. The first verse 
intimated that the acquaintance was not first made, 
but only renewed, at this time. The poem revolved 
constantly on its own axis, and seemed always to 
return to the point where it began. The close made 
a deep and singular impression. 

As I finished, Goethe came to me again. " Well," 
said he, " have I not shown you something good ? 
But you shall tell me what you think a few days 
hence." I was glad to be excused from saying any 
thing at that moment ; for the impression was so new, 
and had been so hastily received, that I could not have 
made any appropriate criticism. 

He promised to let me see it again in some tranquil 
hour. The time for the theatre had now arrived, and 
we separated with an affectionate pressure of the hand. 

The " Chess-machine " was, perhaps, a good piece, 
but I saw it not, — my thoughts were with Goethe. 



CONVERSATIONS. 



67 



As I went home, I passed by his house ; it was all 
lighted up ; I heard the music from within, and regret- 
ted that I did not stay there. 

The next day, I was told that the Polish lady, 
Madame Szymanowska, in whose honor the party was 
given, had played on the piano in such a style of 
excellence as to enchant the whole society. I learned, 
also, that Goethe became acquainted with her the past 
summer at Marienbad, and that she had now come 
hither for the purpose of visiting him. 

At noon, Goethe sent me a little manuscript, " Studies 
from Zauper," in which I found many fine remarks. I 
sent him the poems I had written at Jena, and of which 
I had lately spoken to him. 

Wednesday, 29th October. 
This evening, I went to Goethe just as they were 
lighting the lamps. I found him in a very animated 
state of mind : his eyes sparkled in the torch-light ; his 
whole expression was one of cheerfulness, youth, and 
power. 

We walked up and down. He began immediately 
to speak of the poems which I sent him yesterday. 

" I understand now,' 5 said he, " why you thought, 
while at Jena, of writing a poem on the seasons. I 
now advise you to do so, and begin with Winter. You 
seem to have distinguished powers of observation for 
natural objects. 

" Only two words would I say about your poems. 
You stand now at that point where you ought to break 
through to the really high and difficult part of art, that 
of seizing on what is individual in objects. You have 



59 



ECKERMANN. 



talent, and have got a good way forward : your own 
will must do the rest. You were to-day at Tiefurt ; 
that would afford a good subject for the attempt. You 
may perhaps observe Tiefurt for three or four visits, 
before you will win from it the characteristic side, and 
understand how to manage it ; but spare not your toil : 
study it throughout, and then represent it. It is a 
worthy subject, and one which I should have used long 
since, but I could not ; for I have lived through each 
event with it, and my being is so interwoven with its 
history, that details press upon me with over-great 
fulness. But you come as a stranger ; let the keeper 
tell you all the history of that castle, and you will 
seize only what is prominent and significant at the 
present moment." 

I promised to try, but confessed that this subject 
seemed to me out of my way, and very difficult. 

" I know well," said he, " that it is difficult ; but the 
apprehension and representation of the individual is 
the very life of art. Besides, while you content your- 
self in generalities, every one can imitate you ; but, 
in the particular, no man can, because no man has 
lived exactly your life. 

" And you need not fear lest what is peculiar should 
not meet with sympathy. Each character, however 
peculiar it may be, and each object which you can 
represent, from the stone up to man, has generality ; 
for there is repetition every where, and there is no 
thing to be found only once in the world. On this 
step of representing what is peculiar or individual 
begins what we call composition." 

This was not at once clear to me, though I refrained 



CONVERSATIONS. 



59 



from questions. " Perhaps," thought I, " he means 
the fusing of the Ideal with the Real, — the union of 
that which we must find without, with that which is 
inborn. But perhaps he means something else." 
Goethe continued : — 

" And be sure you put to each poem the date at 
which you wrote it." I looked at him inquiringly. 
" Thus," said he, " you will gain the best of journals. 
I have done it for many years, and can see its use." 

It was now time for the theatre. " So you are going 
to Finland?" called he, jestingly, after me: — for the 
piece was Johann von Finland, (" John of Finland,") 
by Frau von Weissenthurm 

The piece had some effective passages, but was so 
overloaded with pathos, and design so obvious in every 
part, that, on the whole, it did not impress me favor- 
ably. The last act, however, pleased and reconciled 
me to the rest. 

This piece suggested to me the following thoughts : 
Characters which have been imperfectly painted by the 
poet, gain on the stage, because the actor, as a living 
man, must impart to them some sort of life and of 
individuality. But the finely painted characters of the 
great poet, which already exhibit to us a sharply 
marked individuality, must lose on the stage, because 
the actor is not throughout adapted to his part, and 
very few of the tribe can lay aside their own individ- 
ualities. And if the actor be not the counterpart of 
the character, and do not possess the power of laying 
aside his own personality, a mixture ensues, and the 
character loses its harmony. Therefore, the play of a 
really great writer appears in its original brightness 



(30 



ECKERMANN. 



only in points ; and, by seeing it merely, you can never 
be in a situation to do it justice. 

Monday, 3d November. 

I went to Goethe at five o'clock. I heard them, as I 
came up stairs, laughing and talking in the dining- 
room. The servant said that the Polish lady dined 
there to-day, and they had not yet left the table. I'was 
going away, but he said his master had left orders that 
they should tell him when I came, and would, perhaps, 
be glad of an interruption, as it was now late. So I 
went into Goethe's apartment, and he soon came to me 
in a very pleasant humor. He had wine brought, and 
filled for me and himself. 

" Before I forget it," said he, " let me give you this 
ticket. Me. Szymanowska gives, to-morrow evening, a 
public concert at the Stadthaus, and you must not fail 
to be there." I replied that I certainly should not 
repeat my late folly. " Does she play remarkably 
well?" asked I. "Admirably." " As well as Hum- 
mel?" "You must remember," said Goethe, "that 
she is not only a fine performer, but a beautiful 
woman ; and this lends a charm to all she does. But 
her execution is masterly, — astonishing indeed." 
"And is there genuine power, as well as dexterity?" 
said I. " Yes," said he, " genuine power ; and that is 
what is most worthy of note, because you so rarely 
find it in what women do." 

Secretary Kräuter came in to consult about the 
library. Goethe, when he left us, praised his fidelity 
and judgment. 

We then talked of the papers relating to his journey 



CONVERSATIONS. 



Gl 



into Switzerland in 1797. I spoke of his and Meyer's 
reflections upon subjects of plastic art. " Ay," said 
Goethe, " and what can be more important than the 
subject, and what is all the science of art, if that is 
wanting? It is because artists in modern times have 
no worthy subjects, that modern art so stumbles and 
blunders. From this cause we all suffer. I myself 
must pay the penalty of my modern date. 

" Very few artists have clear notions on this point, 
or know the things which are for their peace. For 
instance, they take my ' Fisherman ' as the subject of a 
picture, and never discover that what constitutes its 
merit cannot be painted. The ballad expresses the 
charm which the water in summer has for us when it 
tempts us to bathe; that is all, — and how can that be 
painted?" 

I mentioned how pleased I was to see how various 
were the interests called into action by his journey ; 
how he saw every thing ; shape and situation of the 
mountains, their geology and mineralogy ; earth, rivers, 
clouds, air, wind, and storm ; then the cities, the his- 
tory of their origin and growth, architecture, painting, 
theatre ; police of cities, trades, economy, laying out 
of the streets, human race, manner of living, individual 
peculiarities ; then again, politics, warlike adventures, 
and a hundred other things. 

He answered, " But you find no word upon music, 
because that is not within my circle. Each traveller 
should know what he is fit to see, and what properly 
belongs to him, on his journey." 

The Herr Canzler came in for a few moments, and 
then went to the ladies. When he had left us, Goethe 

F 



62 ECKERMANN. 

praised him, and said, " All these excellent men, with 
whom you are now placed in so pleasant a relation, 
make what I call a home, — a home to which one is 
always willing to return." 

I said that " I already perceived the beneficial effects 
of my present situation ; for I found myself able to set 
aside my ideal and theoretic tendencies, and make use 
of the present moment more and more." 

" It would be pity," said Goethe, " if it were not so. 
Only persist in your present. view, and hold fast by the 
present. Each situation — nay, each moment — is of 
infinite worth ; for each represents a whole eternity." 

After a short pause, I turned the conversation to the 
best mode of treating the subject he had proposed to 
me, that of Tiefurt. " This subject," said I, " is 
complex ; and it will be difficult to give it proper form. 
It seems to me it would be best treated in prose." 

" It is not in itself," replied Goethe, " an object of 
sufficient significance for that. The didactic, descrip- 
tive form, would be the one I should choose ; but even 
that is not perfectly appropriate. Perhaps you would 
do well to write ten or twelve little poems, in rhyme, 
but in various measures and forms, such as the various 
sides and views demand, on which light must be 
thrown to do justice to the subject." This idea struck 
me favorably. " Why, indeed," continued he, " should 
you not at once use dramatic means, and perhaps write 
a conversation with the gardener ? In this way you 
could easily bring out the various sides. A compre- 
hensive, great whole, is so difficult, that he who 
attempts it, seldom brings any thing to bear." 



CONVERSATIONS. 



63 



Wednesday, 10th November. 

Goethe has been quite unwell for a few days past ; 
he has a very bad cold. His cough seems to be very 
painful ; for he has constantly his hand at his side. 

I passed half an hour with him this evening, after 
the theatre. He sat in an arm-chair, propped up by 
cushions, and seemed to speak with difficulty. 

He gave me a poem intended for insertion in Kunst 
und Alterthum. I took the light, and sat down to 
read it, at a little distance from him. 

This poem was singular in its character, and, though 
I did not fully understand it, very much affected me on 
the first reading. The Paria was its subject, to illus- 
trate which, he had adopted the form of Trilogy. Its 
tone was that of another world, and the mode of repre- 
sentation such, that I found it very difficult to enter 
into it. Then I heard Goethe often cough or sigh, 
and could not forget that he was near me. I read the 
poem again and again, without being able to get com- 
pletely engaged in it ; but I found that it grew upon 
me with each new reading, and appeared to me more 
and more to indicate the highest grade of Art. 

At last I spoke to Goethe, and he gave me much 
new light, both as to subject and treatment. 

" Indeed," said he, f the treatment is peculiar, and 
one who was not in good earnest, could not hope to 
penetrate the true meaning. It seems to me like a 
Damascene blade hammered out of steel wire. I have 
borne this subject about with me for forty years ; so that 
it has had time to get clear of every thing extraneous." 

" No doubt," said I, " it will produce an effect on 
the public." 



64 



ECKERMANN. 



" Ah, the public ! " sighed Goethe. 

" Would it not be well," said I, " to add such an 
explanation as we do to pictures, when we make the 
meaning obvious by describing the circumstances 
which led to the catastrophe?" 

" I think not," said he ; " that is well for pictures, 
but, as a poem is already expressed in words, words 
of interpretation only annihilate its significancy." 

I thought Goethe was here very happy in pointing 
out the rock on which those who try to interpret 
poems are often wrecked. Still it may be questioned 
whether it be not possible to avoid this rock, and affix 
some explanatory words without injuring the delicacy 
of its inner life. 

When I went away, he asked me to take the poem 
with me, and read it again, and also the " Roses from 
the East" (Östlichen Rosen) of Rückert, a poet 
whom he highly valued, and from whom he seemed to 
expect much. 

Thursday, November 13th. 

Some days ago, as I was walking one fine afternoon 
towards Erfurt, I was joined by an elderly man, whom 
I supposed, from his appearance, to be some respecta- 
ble citizen. We had not been together long, before 
the conversation turned upon Goethe. On my asking 
whether he knew Goethe, — " Do I know him?" said 
he, with vivacity ; " I was his valet almost twenty 
years!" I begged to hear something of Goethe's 
youth, and he gladly consented to gratify me. 

" When I first lived with him," said he, " he was 
very active in his habits, thin and elegant in his person. 



CONVERSATIONS. 



65 



I could easily have carried him in my arms." I asked 
whether Goethe, in that early part of his life here, was 
disposed to gayety. " Certainly," replied he; " always 
gay with the gay, but never when they passed a certain 
limit ; in that case he became grave. Always working 
and seeking ; his mind always bent on art and science ; 
that was the way with my master. The Duke often 
visited him at evening, and staid so late, conversing on 
literary topics, that I would get extremely tired, and 
long to have the Duke go away. Even then he had 
begun to be interested in Natural Philosophy and 
History. One time, he rang for me in the middle 
of the night. When I came up, I found he had rolled 
his iron trundle-bed to the window, and was lying 
there, looking out upon the heavens. ' Have you seen 
nothing remarkable in the heavens?' asked he; and, 
when I answered in the negative, bid me run and ask 
the same question of the watchman. He said he had 
not seen any thing remarkable. When I returned with 
this answer to my master, I found him in the same 
position in which I had left him, lying in his bed, and 
gazing upon the sky. ' Listen,' said he to me ; ' this 
is an important moment ; there is now an earthquake, 
or one is just going to take place ; ' then he made me 
sit down on the bed, and showed me by what signs he 
knew this." 

I asked the good old man " what sort of weather it 
was." 

" A cloudy night," he replied ; " no air stirring ; 
very still and sultry." I asked if he believed there 
was an earthquake merely on Goethe's word. 

"Yes," said he, "I believed it, for I always found 

F 2 



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ECKERMANN. 



things happened as he said they would. Next day, 
while he was relating his observations at Court, a lady 
whispered to her neighbor, 1 What visions are these 
of Goethe's 1 ' But the Duke, and all the men present, 
believed Goethe, and the correctness of his observa- 
tions was confirmed, in a few weeks, by the news that 
a part of Messina was on that night ruined by an 
earthquake." 

Friday, 14th November. 
[Goethe sent for Eckermann this evening. He went, 
and found him very unwell. After some conversation 
of no interest to the general reader, they spoke of 
Schiller.] 

" I have," said I, " a peculiar feeling towards 
Schiller. Some scenes of his great dramas I read 
with genuine love and admiration ; but presently 
I meet with something which violates the truth of 
nature, and then I can go no further. I feel this even 
in reading ' Wallenstein. ' I cannot but think that 
Schiller's turn for philosophy has injured his poetry, 
because this led him to prefer Ideas to Nature, indeed, 
almost to annihilate nature. What he could conceive 
must happen, whether it were in conformity with the 
law of nature or no." 

" It was sorrowful," said Goethe, " to see how so 
highly gifted a man tormented himself with systems 
of philosophy which would no way profit him. Hum- 
boldt has shown me the letters which Schiller wrote to 
him in those unblest days of speculation. There we see 
how he plagued himself with the design of separating per- 
fectly naive from sentimental poetry. For such poetry 



CONVERSATIONS. 



07 



he could find no proper groundwork, and from the 
attempt arose unspeakable confusion. As if," con- 
tinued he, smiling, " sentimental poetry could exist 
without the naive ground in which it properly has its 
root. 

" Schiller produced nothing instinctively or uncon- 
sciously ; he must reflect upon every step ; therefore 
he always wished to talk over his literary plans, and 
has conversed with me about all his later works, piece 
by piece, as he was writing them. 

" On the other hand, it was contrary to my nature 
to talk over my poetic plans with any body ; even with 
Schiller. I carried them about with me in silence, and 
usually said not a word to any one till the whole was 
completed. When I showed Schiller ' Hermann and 
Dorothea,' he was astonished because I had said not 
a syllable of any such plan. 

" But I shall be anxious to hear what you will 
say of ' Wallenstein ' to-morrow. You will see noble 
shapes, and the piece will probably make on you such 
an impression as you do not now dream of." 

Saturday, 15th November. 
In the evening, I for the first time saw " Wallen- 
stein." Goethe had not said too much ; the piece 
made on me an impression which reached the very 
depths of my nature. The actors, who had almost all 
been under the personal influence of Schiller and 
Goethe, gave to the personages an individuality, and 
to the whole a significance, far beyond what I had 
found in reading it. I could not get it out of my head 
the whole night. 



08 



ECKERMANN. 



Sunday, 16th November. 
I went to see Goethe ; found him in his elbow-chair, 
and still very weak. His first question was about 
" Wallenstein ; " and he heard my account of the 
impression it had made upon me with visible satis- 
faction. 

Herr Soret came in and brought from the Duke 
some gold medals. Looking at these and talking them 
over entertained Goethe very pleasantly for an hour. 
Then Herr Soret attended Frau von Goethe to Court, 
and I was left alone with Goethe. 

I reminded him of his promise to show me again 
his Marienbad Elegy. He brought it, gave me a light, 
seated himself again, and left me to an undisturbed 
perusal of the piece. 

After I had been reading awhile, I turned to say 
something to him, but he seemed to be asleep. I 
therefore used the favorable moment, and read the 
poem again and again with a rare delight. The 
youthful glow of love, tempered by the moral elevation 
of the spirit, seemed its pervading characteristic. 
Then I thought that emotion was more forcibly ex- 
pressed than in Goethe's other poems, and imputed this 
to the influence of Byron — an opinion which Goethe 
did not reject. 

" You see the product of a highly impassioned 
mood," said he. " While I was in it, I would not for 
the world be without it, and now nothing would tempt 
me to be in it again. 

" I wrote that poem immediately after leaving 
Marienbad, while the feeling of all I had experienced 
there was fresh. At eight in the morning, when we 



CONVERSATIONS. 



(39 



stopped first, I wrote down the first stanza; and so I 
went on composing them in the carriage, and writing 
them down when we stopped, so that by evening the 
whole was on paper. Thence it has a certain direct- 
ness, and being all, as I may say, poured out at once, 
may have a better air as a whole." 

" It has," said I, " a quite peculiar aspect, and recalls 
no other poem of yours." 

" That," said he, " may be because I looked at the 
present moment as a man does upon a card on which 
he has staked a considerable sum, and sought to 
enhance its value as much as I could without exag- 
geration." These words struck me much ; they threw 
light on his conduct, and seemed to give a clew to the 
understanding of that many-sidedness which has exci- 
ted so much wonder. 

Stadelmann now came to apply to his side a plaster 
which the physician had prescribed. I turned to the 
window, but heard him lamenting to Stadelmann-, that 
his illness was not lessening, but seemed to have 
assumed a character of permanence. When it was 
over, I sat down by him again. He observed that he 
had not slept for some nights, and had no appetite. 
" The winter," said he, " will go, and I can do 
nothing, bring nothing to bear ; my mind has no 
force." I tried to soothe him, and represented, that, 
if he would not think too much of his plans at 
present, there was reason to hope he would soon be 
better. "Ah," said he, "I am not impatient; I have 
lived through too many such situations, not to have 
learned to endure and to wait." 

I now rose to bid him good night. He was in his 



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flannel gown, and said he should sit in his chair all 
night, for he should not sleep if he went to bed. I 
pressed his dear hand, and took leave. 

Down stairs I found Stadelmann much agitated. He 
said he was much alarmed about his master, for " if he 
complains, that is a bad sign indeed! And his feet 
look thin, which have been a little swollen till lately ! 
I shall go to the physician early in the morning, and 
tell him these bad signs." I could not succeed in 
calming his fears. 

Monday, 17th November. 
When I entered the theatre this evening, many 
persons pressed towards me, asking anxiously, "How 
is Goethe ?" I think his illness has been exaggerated 
in the town, but I felt depressed all the evening. 

Wednesday, 19th. 

Yesterday, I was very anxious; for no one out of 
his family was admitted to see him. 

But this evening he received me. He did not seem 
better in health than on Sunday, yet cheerful. 

He talked of Zauper, and the widely differing 
results which are seen to proceed from the study of 
ancient literature. 

Friday, 21st. 

Goethe sent for me. To my great joy, I found him 
able to walk up and down in his chamber. He gave 
me a little book, "Gazelles," by Count Platen. "I 
had intended," said he, " to write a notice of this 
for Kunst und Alterthum, for the poems deserve it 



CONVERSATIONS. 



7 I 



But, as my present state will not permit me, try what 
you can do, after reading it." 
I promised to try. 

" ' Gazelles,' " continued he, " have this peculiarity, 
that they demand great fulness of meaning. The 
constantly recurring similar rhymes must find a suit- 
able provision of similar thoughts ready to meet them. 
Therefore, not every one succeeds in them ; but I 
think they will please you." 

Monday, 24th. 

Saturday and Sunday, I studied the poems; this 
morning, I wrote down my view of them, and sent it 
to Goethe ; for I had heard that the physician wished 
he should see nobody, and had forbidden him to talk. 

However, he sent for me this evening. I found a 
chair placed for me near him ; he gave me his hand, 
and seemed very affectionate and kind. He began 
immediately to speak of my little critique. " I was 
much pleased with it," said he ; " you have a fair gift, 
and I wish now to say to you, that, if proposals for the 
employment of your talents should be made to you 
from other quarters, I hope you will refuse them, or 
at least consult me before deciding upon them; for, 
since you are now so linked with me, I would not 
willingly see you enter on other new relations." 

I replied that I wished to belong to him alone, and 
had at present no reason to think of new connections. 

We then talked of the "Gazelles." Goethe ex- 
pressed his delight at the completeness of these poems, 
and that our present literature produced so much good 
fruit as it does. 



73 



ECKERMANN. 



" I wish," said he, " to recommend rising talent to 
your observation. I wish you to examine whatever our 
literature brings forth worthy of note, and to place 
before me whatever is most meritorious, that I may 
take due notice of what is good, noble, and well 
executed, in Kunst und Alterthum. For, if I am ever 
so desirous, I cannot, at my age, and with my manifold 
duties, do this without aid from other minds." 

I said I would do as he desired, and was very glad 
to find that our late writers and poets were more 
interesting to him than I had supposed. 

He sent me the latest literary periodicals to assist in 
the proposed task. I was not sent for, nor did I go to 
him, for several days, as I heard his friend Zelter had 
come to make him a visit. 

Monday, 1st December. 

To-day, I was invited to dine with Goethe. I found 
Zelter with him. Both came to meet me, and gave 
me their hands. " Here," said Goethe, " we have my 
friend Zelter. In him you make a valuable acquaint- 
ance. If I should send you soon to Berlin, you will 
see what excellent care he will take of you." " Is 
Berlin a good place?" said I. " Yes," replied Zelter, 
with a smile, " for there much may be learned, and 
much unlearned." We sat down and talked on various 
subjects. I asked after Schubarth. " He visits me at 
the least every eight days," said Zelter. " He is married 
now, but has no appointment, because of what has 
passed between him and the philologists in Berlin." 

Zelter asked if I knew Immermann. I said I had 
often heard his name, but was not yet acquainted with 



CONVERSATIONS. 



73 



his writings. " I made his acquaintance at Münster," 
said Zelter ; " he is a very hopeful young man, and it 
is a pity that his appointment leaves him so little time 
for his art." Goethe also praised his talent. " But 
we must see," said he, "how he comes out; whether 
he purines his taste, and regulates his standard, accord- 
ing to the best models. His original strivings had 
their merit, but might easily be turned into a wrong 
direction." 

Little Walter now came jumping in, asking a 
thousand questions, both of Zelter and his grandfather. 
" When thou comest, uneasy spirit," said Goethe, " all 
good conversation is spoiled." However, he loves the 
boy, and was unwearied in satisfying his wishes. 

Frau von Goethe, and her sister, Fraulein Ulrica, 
now came in, and with them, young Goethe, in his 
uniform and sword, ready for Court. We sat down to 
table. Fraulein Ulrica and Zelter were very gay, and 
exchanged many a pleasant jest during dinner. I was 
much pleased with Zelter's appearance and manner. 
As a healthy, happy man, he could give himself up 
wholly to the influence of the moment, and always had 
the word fit for the occasion. Then he is very lively 
and kindly, and is so perfectly unconstrained, that he 
speaks out whatever is in his mind, and many a blunt, 
substantial saying with the rest. He imparts to others 
his own freedom of spirit, and all narrowing views are 
set aside by his presence. I silently thought how 
much I should like to live with him awhile. I am 
sure it would do me good. Zelter went away soon 
after dinner, for he was invited to visit the Grand 
Duchess that evening. 

G 



74 



ECKERMANN. 



Thursday, 4th December. 

This morning, Secretary Kräuter brought me an in- 
vitation to dine with Goethe, at the same time intima- 
ting to me, by Goethe's desire, that I had better present 
Zelter with a copy of my book. I carried the copy to 
him at his hotel. He, on his side, offered me Immer- 
mann's poems. " I would give you this copy," said he, 
" but, as you see, the author has dedicated it to me, 
and I must therefore keep and value it." 

Then, before dinner, I walked with Zelter through 
the park towards Upper Weimar. Many spots recalled 
to him anecdotes of former days, and he told me much 
of Schiller, Wieland, and Herder, with whom he had 
been on terms of intimacy, and considered this as one 
of the most valuable circumstances of his life. 

He talked much of composition, and recited many 
of Goethe's songs. " If I am to compose for a poem," 
said he, " I try to get a clear understanding of all the 
words, and to bring the situation before me in the 
colors of life. I then read it aloud till I know it by 
heart, and afterwards, while I am reciting it, comes 
the melody of its own accord." 

Wind and rain obliged us to return sooner than we 
wished. I accompanied him to Goethe's house, where 
he was going to sing before dinner with Frau von 
Goethe, left him there, and went home. 

About two, I went there, and found Goethe and 
Zelter engaged in looking at engravings of Italian 
scenery. Frau von Goethe came in, and we sat down 
to dinner. Young Goethe and Fraulein Ulrica were 
out to-day. 

At table, both Goethe and Zelter entertained us 



CONVERSATIONS. 



75 



with many original anecdotes illustrative of the pecu- 
liarities of their common friend, Wolf of Berlin. 
Then they talked of the Nibelungen, and of Lord 
Byron, and the visit it was hoped he will make at 
Weimar, in which Frau von Goethe takes the greatest 
interest. The Rochus feast at Bingen was also a 
subject, at which Zelter had been much charmed by 
two maidens, whose loveliness he greatly extolled. 
Goethe's song, Kriegsgluck, (" Fortune of War,") 
was gayly talked over. Zelter was inexhaustible in 
anecdotes of wounded soldiers and fair women, in 
proof of the truth of this poem. Goethe said he had 
not far to go for his facts ; he had seen the whole in 
Weimar. Frau von Goethe amused herself by op- 
posing them, and maintaining that women were not 
at all such as that naughty poem represented them. 

The hours passed very pleasantly in such chat. 

When I was left alone with Goethe, he asked me 
how I liked Zelter. I remarked that his influence was 
very genial. " He may," said Goethe, " on first ac- 
quaintance, seem blunt or even rough ; but that is all 
in externals. I know scarce any one, who is, in reality, 
so delicate and tender. And then we must not forget 
that he has lived fifty years in Berlin. And the state 
of society there is such, that delicacy will not much 
avail you ; and a man is forced to be vehement, and 
even rough, if he would keep his head above water." 

Tuesday, 27th January, 1824. 
Goethe talked with me about the continuation of his 
memoirs, with which he is now busy. He observed, 
that this later period of his life would not be narrated 



70 



ECKERMANN. 



with such minuteness as he had used in the Dichtung 
und Wahrheit. 1 "1 must," said he, " treat this later 
period more in the fashion of annals, and content 
myself with detailing my outward actions, rather than 
depicting my inward life. Truly, the most important 
part of a man's life is that of development, and mine 
is contained in the minute disclosures of the Dichtung 
und Wahrheit. Later begins the conflict with the 
world, and that is interesting only in its results. 

" And then the life of a literary man here in Ger- 
many, — what is it ? What was really good in mine 
cannot be communicated, and what can be communi- 
cated is not worth the trouble. And where are the 
hearers whom one could entertain with any satisfac- 
tion ? When I look around, and see how few of the 
companions of earlier years are left to me, I think of 
a summer residence at a bathing-place. When you 
arrive, you first become acquainted with those who 
have already been there some weeks, and who leave 
you in a few days. This separation is painful. Then 
you turn to the second generation, with which you live 
a good while, and become really intimate. But this 
goes also, and leaves us lonely with the third, which 
comes just as we are going away, and with which we 
have, properly, nothing to do. 

" I have ever been esteemed one of Fortune's 
chiefest favorites ; nor can I complain of the course 
my life has taken. Yet, truly, there has been nothing 
but toil and care ; and, in my seventy-fifth year, I may 
say, that I have never had four weeks of genuine 



1 Poetry and Truth out of my Life. 



CONVERSATIONS. 



77 



pleasure. The stone was ever to be rolled up anew. 
My annals will testify to the truth of what I now say. 
The claims upon my activity, from within and without, 
were too numerous. 

" What really made me happy was my poetic mind 
and creative power. And how was this disturbed, 
limited, and hindered, by the external circumstances 
of my condition ! Had I been able to abstain from 
mingling in public business, I should have been 
happier, and, as a poet, should have accomplished 
much more. But, as it was, my Goetz and Werther 
verified for me that saying of the sage, ' If you do 
any thing for the advantage of the world, it will take 
good care that you shall not do it a second time. 5 

" A wide-spread celebrity, an elevated position in 
the world, are good things. But, for all my rank and 
celebrity, I am still obliged to be silent, lest I come 
into collision with the opinions of others. 1 This 
would be but poor sport, if I did not by this means 
learn the thoughts of others without their being able 
to scrutinize mine." 

Sunday, 15th February. 
This morning, I found Goethe in excellent spirits. 
He was much pleased with a visit he had just received 
from a young Westphalian, named Meyer. " He has," 
said he, " written poems of great promise. For the 
age of eighteen, he has made incredible progress. I 

1 [The word verletzen may mean " to injure the feelings, hurt 
the character." I am not sure that I take the truest sense. — 
Transl.] 

G2 



78 



ECKERMANN. 



am rejoiced," continued he, smiling, " that I am not 
eighteen just now. When I was eighteen, Germany 
was no older, and something could be done ; but 
now-a-days, so much is demanded, that every avenue 
seems barred. 

" Germany has become so distinguished in every 
department, that we can scarce find time to become 
acquainted with what she has done ; and yet we must 
be Greeks and Romans, French and English, beside. 
Not content with this, some must needs explore the 
East also ; and is not such a state of things enough 
to confuse a young man's head ? 

" I have shown him my colossal Juno, as a token that 
he had best seek repose among the Greeks. He is a 
fine young man, and, if he does not dissipate his 
energies on too many objects, will be sure to do well. 
However, as I said before, I thank Heaven that I am 
not young in this time and place. I could not stay 
here. And I fear I should find too broad daylight in 
America even, if I should take refuge there." 

Sunday, 22d February. 

Dined with Goethe and his son. The latter related 
some pleasant stories of the time when he was a 
student at Heidelberg. 

After dinner, Goethe showed us some colored draw- 
ings of scenery in Northern Italy. We looked most 
at one representing the Lago Maggiore, with the Swiss 
mountains. The Borromean Isles were reflected in 
the water ; near the shore were skiffs and fishing- 
tackle, which ted Goethe to remark that this is the 
lake celebrated in the Wanderjahre. On the north- 



CONVERSATIONS. 



79 



west, towards Monte Rosa, stood the hills which 
border the lake in black-blue heavy masses, as we 
are wont to see them soon after sunset. 

I remarked that, to me, who had been born in the 
plain country, the gloomy sublimity of these masses 
only gave uneasiness ; that I could not feel at home 
with them, nor did I desire to explore their wild 
recesses. 

" That is natural," said Goethe. " Man can con- 
form perfectly to that situation only, in which, and 
for which, he was born. He who is not led abroad by 
a great object is far happier at home. I was at first 
disturbed and confused by the impression which 
Switzerland produced on me. Only after repeated 
visits — only in after years, when I visited those 
mountains as a mineralogist merely — could I converse 
with them at my ease." 

We looked, afterwards, at many engravings, from 
pictures by modern French artists. These were so 
poor and weak in design, that, among forty, we barely 
found four or five good ones. These were a maiden 
with a love-letter ; a woman in a house to let, which 
nobody will take; "catching fish;" and musicians 
before an image of the Madonna. A landscape, in 
imitation of Poussin, was tolerable ; upon looking at 
which, Goethe said, " Such artists get a general idea 
of Poussin's landscapes, and work upon that. We can 
neither style their pictures good nor bad : they are not 
bad, because, through every part, you catch glimpses 
of their excellent model. But you cannot call them 
good, because they wholly want what was most indi- 
vidual in Poussin. 'Tis just so among poets. Look, 



80 



ECKERMANN. 



for instance, at those who would imitate Shakspeare's 
grand style." 

Tuesday, 24th February. 

I went to Goethe at one. He showed me a supple- 
ment he had written to my criticism on the " Paria." 

" You were quite right," said he, " to try to become 
acquainted with India, on account of your little 
critical essay, since, in the end, we retain from our 
studies only that part which we can practically 
apply." 

I answered that I had found it so in all the in- 
struction I had ever received. I had retained what 
any natural tendency would lead me to apply, ^and 
forgotten all the rest. " I have," said I, " heard 
Heeren's lectures on ancient and modern history, and 
know now nothing about the matter. But, if I study 
a period of history for the sake of writing a drama, 
what I learn in that way abides with me." 

" Every where," said Goethe, " they teach in 
academies too many things, and many useless things. 
In former days, the physician learned chemistry and 
botany, to aid him in his profession, and they were 
in such a state that he could manage them. Now, 
each of these departments has become so extensive, 
that any competent acquaintance with it is the work 
of a life ; yet acquaintance with both is expected 
from the physician. That cannot be; one must be 
renounced or neglected for the sake of the other. 
He who is wise will put aside all claims which may 
dissipate his attention, and determine to excel in some 
one branch." 



CONVERSATIONS. 81 

He then, after showing me a short criticism he had 
been writing upon Lord Byron's " Cain," added, 

" We see how the inadequate dogmas of the church 
work upon a free mind like Byron's, and how through- 
out such a piece he struggles to get rid of the doctrine 
which has been forced upon him. The English clergy 
will not thank him ; but I shall be surprised if he does 
not lake up biblical subjects of similar import, and, 
among others, that of the destruction of Sodom and 
Gomorrah." 

He then showed me a carved gem, of which he had 
expressed his admiration some days before. I was 
enchanted by the naivete of the design. It repre- 
sented a man who has taken a heavy vessel from his 
shoulder to give a boy drink. But the boy finds it is 
not bent down sufficiently ; the drink will not flow ; 
he has hold of the vessel with both hands, and is 
looking up into the man's face with an expression 
which seems to ask that he will lean it a little more 
towards him. 

" Now ! how do you like that?" said Goethe. " We 
moderns," continued he, " can indeed feel the beauty 
of such a perfectly natural, perfectly naive design, 
but we cannot make such ; the understanding is always 
uppermost, and will not permit that unconscious and 
enchanting grace." 

We looked then at a medal by Brandt of Berlin, 
representing young Theseus taking the arms of his 
father from under the stone. The attitude had merit, 
but we found the limbs not sufficiently strained to lift 
such a burden. It seemed, too, a mistake for the 
youth to have one hand on the arms, while with the 



82 



ECKERMANN. 



other he lifts the stone ; for, according to the nature 
of the thing, he should first roll aside the heavy stone, 
and then take the arms. " I will show you," said 
Goethe, " an antique gem, and let you see how the 
same subject is treated there." 

He bid Stadelmann bring a box which contained 
several hundred copies of antique gems, which he had 
collected while in Italy. The Greek, indeed, had 
treated this subject differently. On the antique gem, 
I found the youth exerting his whole strength to move 
the stone, and not in vain ; the stone is on the point 
of falling aside. All his bodily powers are directed 
by the young hero to the removal of this obstacle only ; 
his looks are fixed on the arms which lie beneath. 

We rejoiced in the truth and nature of this repre- 
sentation. 

" Meyer," continued Goethe, laughing, " used to 
say, ' If only the thought were not so hard.' And the 
worst is, that no thinking will bring us such thoughts ; 
we must be made right by nature, and let these fine 
thoughts come before us like free children of God, and 
cry, ' Here we are.' " 

Wednesday, 25th February. 

To-day, Goethe showed me two very remarkable 
poems, both highly moral in their tendency, but in 
action so natural and true, so perfectly unreserved, 
that the world would style them immoral ; and he, 
therefore, does not publish them. 

" Could intellect and high cultivation," said he, 
" indeed become the property of all, the poet would 
have fair play ; he would be true to himself throughout, 



CONVERSATIONS. 83 

and would not fear to tell his best thoughts. But, 
as it is, he must always keep on a certain level ; must 
remember that his works will be read by a mixed 
society ; and must take care not to do any thing which 
by over-great openness may annoy the majority of good 
men. Then, Time is a tyrant, who has strange whims, 
and turns a new face to each new century. We can- 
not, with propriety, say things which were very proper 
for the ancient Greeks ; and the Englishman of 1820 
cannot endure what suited the vigorous contemporaries 
of Shakspeare ; so that the present day finds it neces- 
sary to have a family Shakspeare." 

" Then," said I, " there is much in the form also. 
One of these two poems, which is composed in the 
style and metre of the ancients, would be far less 
offensive than the other. Certainly, parts must dis- 
please, but the whole has a tone of grandeur and 
dignity ; so that we seem to hear a strong man of 
antiquity, and to be carried back to the heroic age 
of Greece. But the other, being in the style and 
metre of Messer Ariosto, has a much more suspicious 
air. It relates an event of our day, and in the lan- 
guage of our day ; it wears no sort of veil, and its 
boldness seems bold indeed." 

" You are right," said he ; " the mysterious influence 
of different poetic forms is very great. If the import 
of my Romish elegies were put into the measure and 
style of Byron's ' Don Juan,' it would scarcely be 
endured." 

The French newspapers were brought. Goethe was 
much interested by the campaign of the French in 
Spain under the Duke D'Atigouleme. " The Bour- 



84 



ECKERMANN. 



bons," said he, " deserve praise for this measure ; they 
were not firmly seated on the throne till they had won 
the army, and that is now accomplished. The soldier 
returns more loyal ; for he has, from his own victory, 
and the discomfiture of the many-headed Spanish host, 
learned how much better it is to obey one than many. 
The army has sustained its former fame, and shown 
that it is brave in itself, and can fight without 
Napoleon." 

Goethe then turned his thoughts backward into 
history, and talked of the seven years' war, and the 
Prussian army, which, accustomed by Frederic the 
Great to constant victory, grew careless, and thus, in 
after days, lost many battles. All the minutest details 
were familiar to him, and I had reason to admire his 
memory. 

" I had the great advantage," said he, " of being 
born at a time when the world was agitated by great 
movements, which have continued during my long life ; 
so that I am a living witness of the seven years' war, 
the separation of America from England, the French 
Revolution, and the whole Napoleon era, with the 
downfall of that hero, and the events which followed. 
Thus I have attained results and insight impossible to 
those who must learn all these things from books. 

" What these coming years will bring I cannot 
predict ; but I fear we cannot expect repose. The 
world is not so framed that it can keep quiet ; the 
great are not so that they will not permit misuse 
of power ; the masses not so that, in hope of a 
gradual amelioration, they will keep tranquil in an 
inferior condition. Could we perfect human nature, 



CONVERSATIONS. 



85 



we might expect perfection every where ; but, as it is, 
there will always be this wavering hither and thither ; 
one part must suffer while the other is at ease. Envy 
and egotism will be always at work like bad demons, 
and party conflicts find no end. 

" The most reasonable way is to follow one's own 
vocation — do what you were born or have learned to do, 
and avoid hindering others from doing the same. Let 
the shoemaker abide by his last, the peasant by his 
plough, and the king by his sceptre. For the art 
of governing also requires an apprenticeship, and no 
one should meddle with it before having learned it." 

Then, returning to the French papers, — "The 
Liberals," said he, "may speak, and, when they are 
reasonable, we like to hear them ; but the Royalists, 
who have the power in their hands, should not talk, 
but act. They may march troops, and head and hang ; 
that is all right; — but to argue in public prints, and 
try to prove that their measures are right, is not their 
proper way. They might talk, if they could address a 
public of kings. 

" For myself, I have always been a Royalist. I have 
let others babble, and have done as I saw fit. I under- 
stood my course, and knew what my own object was. 
If you hurt one, you can make it up to him ; but, 
if two or three, you had best let it alone : among many 
men there are so many minds." 

Goethe was very gay to-day. He had just written 
in the album of Frau von Spiegel, and rejoiced in 
having fulfilled a promise of long standing. Turning 
over the leaves of this^album, in which I found many 
distinguished names, I saw a poem by Tiedge, written 

H 



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in the very spirit and style of his " Urania." " In a 
saucy mood," said Goethe, " I was tempted to write 
some verses beneath those ; but I am glad I did not. 
It would not have been the first time that, by indulging 
myself in rash liberties, I had repelled good people, 
and spoiled the effect of my best works. 

" However, I have endured not a little from Tiedge | 
for, at one time, nothing was sung or declaimed but 
this same * Urania.' Wherever you went, there lay 
1 Urania' on the table. ' Urania' and immortality were 
the topics of every conversation. I could in no wise 
dispense with the happiness of believing in our future 
existence, and, indeed, could say, with Lorenzo de 
Medici, that those are dead for this life even, who have 
no hope for another. But such incomprehensible 
subjects lie too far off, and only disturb our thoughts 
if made the theme of daily meditation. Let him who 
believes in immortality enjoy his happiness in silence, 
without giving himself airs thereupon. The occasion 
of ' Urania ' led me to observe that piety has its preten- 
sions to aristocracy, no less than noble blood. I met 
stupid women, who plumed themselves on believing, 
with Tiedge, in immortality, and I was forced to bear 
much catechising on this point. They were vexed by 
my saying I should be well pleased to be ushered into 
a future state after the close of this, only I hoped I 
should there meet none of those who had believed in it 
here. For, how should I be tormented ! The pious 
would throng around me, and say, ' Were we not 
right ? Did we not foresee it ? Has not it happened 
just as we said ? ' And so there would be ennui 
without end. 



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" All this fuss about such points is for people of 
rank, and especially women, who have nothing to do. 
But an able man, who has something to do here, and 
must toil and strive day by day to accomplish it, leaves 
the future world till it comes, and contents himself 
with being active and useful in this. Thoughts about 
immortality are also good for those who have small 
success here below, and I would wager that better 
fortune would have brought our good Tiedge better 
thoughts." 

Thursday, 26th February. 

I dined with Goethe. After the cloth had been 
removed, he bade Stadelmann bring in some large port- 
folios of engravings. Goethe detected some dust on 
the covers, and, not finding any cloths at hand to wipe 
it away, he was much displeased, and scolded Stadel- 
mann. "I speak for the last time," said he ; " if these 
cloths, for which I have asked so often, are not forthcom- 
ing to-day, I declare that I will go myself to buy them 
to-morrow, and you shall see that I will keep my 
word." Stadelmann went for them immediately. 

" I used the same means with Becker, the actor," 
added Goethe to me, in a lively tone, " when he refused 
to take the part of a trooper in ' Wallenstein.' I gave 
him warning that, if he would not take the part, I 
myself would appear in it. That did the business. 
For they knew me at the theatre well enough to be 
sure that I was not in jest, and would keep my word in 
any case." 

" And would you really have appeared on the 
boards 1 " asked I. 



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" Yes," said Goethe, " I would have taken the part, 
and would have eclipsed Mr. Becker, too, for I under- 
stood the matter better than he did." 

We then looked at the drawings and engravings. 
Goethe takes great interest in forming my taste ; he 
shows me only what is complete, and endeavors to 
make me apprehend the intention of the artist ; he 
would have me think and feel only with the thoughts 
and feelings of the noblest beings. " This," said he, 
" is the way to cultivate what we call taste. Taste 
should be educated by contemplation, not of the tol- 
erably good, but of the truly excellent. I show you 
the best, and when you have thoroughly apprehended 
these, you will have a standard, and will know how to 
value inferior performances, without overrating them. 
And I show you the best in each sort, that you may 
perceive no department is to be despised, since each 
may be elevated, by genius working in it, to a source 
of improvement and delight. For instance, this piece, 
by a French artist, has a gentility which you see no 
where else, and is admirable in its way." 

He then showed me some etchings by Roos, the 
famous painter of animals ; they were all of sheep in 
different postures and situations. The simplicity of 
their countenances, their fleece, all about them, was 
represented with wonderful fidelity ; it was nature 
itself. " I am half frightened," said Goethe, " when 
I look at these beasts. Their state, so limited, dull, 
gaping, and dreaming, excites in me such sympathy, 
that I feel as if I might become a sheep, and as if the 
artist must have been one. How could he enter so 
into the inmost character of these creatures 1 for their 



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very soul looks through the bodies he has drawn. 
Here you see what great talent can do when it keeps 
steady to subjects which are congenial with its nature." 

"Has not, then," said I, 44 this artist painted dogs, 
cats, and beasts of prey with equal truth, or indeed has 
he not, by his gift of sympathy, been able to represent 
human nature also ? " 

" No," said Goethe, " all that lay out of his circle; 
but the gentle, grass-eating animals, sheep, cows, and 
the like, he was never weary of repeating ; this was 
the peculiar province of his talent, in which he was 
content to work. And in this he did well. His sym- 
pathy with these animals, his knowledge of their 
psychology, were born with him, and this gave him so 
fine an eye for their bodily structure. The nature of 
other creatures was not so transparent to him, and 
therefore he felt no desire to paint them." 

The remembrance of many analogies awoke within 
me at these words. So had Goethe said to me, not 
long since, that knowledge of the world is inborn with 
the genuine poet, who, therefore, needs not much 
experience or varied observation to represent it ade- 
quately. "I wrote Goetz von Berlichingen" said he, 
" at two and twenty, and was astonished, ten years 
after, to observe the fidelity of my own representation. 
It is obvious that I could have seen and experienced 
but a small part of that various picture of life, and 
could only know how to paint it by presentiment. 

" I felt unalloyed pleasure in painting my inward 
world before I became acquainted with the outward. 
But when I found that the world was really just what 
I had fancied, I was chagrined, and my pictures gave 

h3 



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me no more pleasure. Indeed, having represented the 
world so clearly before I knew it, when I did know it, 
my representation might well take a tinge of persi- 
flage." " There is in every character," said he, another 
time, " a certain necessity, a sequence, which obliges 
secondary features to be formed from leading features. 
Observation teaches you how to draw your inferences 
when once you have ascertained certain premises ; but 
some persons possess this knowledge untaught. Wheth- 
er with me experience and this innate faculty are 
united, I will not say ; but this I know, if I have 
talked with any man a quarter of an hour, I can make 
him talk two hours." 

Goethe had said of Lord Byron, that the world to 
him was transparent, and that he could paint by the 
light of his presentiments; I doubted whether Byron 
would succeed in painting, for instance, a subordinate 
animal nature, for his individuality seemed to me to be 
so dear to him, that he could not give himself up to 
such a subject. Goethe agreed, and said that even 
genius had not instinctive knowledge on subjects un- 
congenial with its nature. 

" And if your excellency," said 1, " maintain that 
the world is inborn with the poet, you mean only the 
world of soul, as it manifests itself in human relations, 
and not the empiric world of shows and conventions ; 
the latter, surely, even the poet must learn from obser- 
vation." 

"Certainly," replied Goethe; "the poet knows by 
instinct how to represent the region of love, hate, hope, 
despair, or by whatever other names you may call the 
moods and passions of the soul. But he knows not by 



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instinct how courts are held, or how a coronation is 
managed, and, if he meddle with such subjects, must 
depend either on experience or tradition. Thus, in 
1 Faust,' I might by presentiment have known how to 
describe my hero's weariness of life, and the emotions 
which love excites in the heart of Margaret ; but the 
lines, 

Wie traurig steigt die unvollkommne Scheibe 
Des spaten Monds mit feuchter Glut heran ! 

* How gloomily does the imperfect orb 
. Of the late moon arise in humid glow ! ' 

require that the writer should have observed nature." 

" Yet," said I, " every line of ' Faust' bears marks, 
not to be mistaken, of most careful study of life and the 
world. The reader would suppose it the fruit of the 
amplest experience." 

" Perhaps so," replied Goethe ; " yet, had I not the 
world in my soul from the beginning, I must ever have 
remained blind with my seeing eyes, and all experience 
and observation would have been dead and unproduc- 
tive. The light is there, and the colors surround us ; 
but, if we bore nothing corresponding in our own eyes, 
the outward apparition would not avail us." 

Saturday, 28th February. 
» There are," said Goethe, " excellent men, who 
cannot endure to do any thing impromptu, or super- 
ficially, but whose nature demands that they should fix 
their attention in leisurely tranquillity on any object 
for which they are to do any thing. Such minds often 



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make us impatient, for we can seldom get from them 
what we want for the moment ; but in their way the 
noblest tasks are accomplished." 

I spoke of Ramberg. " He," said Goethe, " is by 
no means. a man of such a stamp, but of most genial 
talents, and unequalled in his power of impromptu 
effort. At Dresden, one day, he asked me to give him 
a subject. I gave him Agamemnon, at the moment 
when, on his return from Troy, he is descending from 
his chariot at his own gate, and is seized with a gloomy 
presentiment as he is about to touch the threshold. 
You will agree that such a subject would have de- 
manded, in the eyes of most artists, mature delibera- 
tion. But the words had scarcely passed my lips, 
before Ramberg began to draw, and astonished me by 
his perfect apprehension of his aim." 

We talked then of other artists, who had set to work 
in a very superficial way, and thus degenerated into 
mannerists. 

" The mannerist," said Goethe, " is always longing 
to get through, and has no true enjoyment of his work. 
But genius is happy in finishing out the details neces- 
sary to express its idea. Roos is unwearied in draw- 
ing the hair and wool of his goats and sheep, and you 
see by his nicety in details that he was truly happy in 
his work, and had no wish to bring it to an end. 

"People of little minds are not happy in art for its 
own sake ; while at work they always have before their 
eyes what they shall get by what they are doing. Such 
worldly views and tendencies never yet produced any 
thing great." 



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Sunday, 29th February. 

I breakfasted with Goethe. I endeavored to per- 
suade him that his " Gods, Heroes, and Wieland," as 
well as his " Letters of a Pastor," had better be inr 
serted in the new edition of his works. 

" I cannot," said Goethe, " at my present peri- 
od, judge of the merit of those youthful productions. 
You younger people are the proper judges of them. 
Yet I am not inclined to find fault with those begin- 
nings ; indeed, I was then in the dark, and struggled 
on without knowing what it was I sought so earnestly ; 
but I had a perception of the right, a divining-rod, that 
showed me where gold was to be found." 

I observed that if this were not the case with strong 
intellects, they would lose much time in this mixed 
world. 

The horses were now at the door, and we rode 
towards Jena.- The conversation turned on the late 
news from France. " The constitution of France," 
said Goethe, " belonging to a people who have within 
themselves so many elements of corruption, rests upon 
a very different basis from that of England. Every 
thing and any thing may be done in France by bribery ; 
indeed the whole course of the French revolution was 
directed by such means." 

He then spoke of the death of Eugene Napoleon, 
(Duke of Leuchtenberg,) which seemed to grieve him 
much. " He was one of those great characters," said 
Goethe, " which are becoming more and more rare ; 
and the world is the poorer for his loss. I knew him per- 
sonally ; we were at Marienbad together last summer. 
He was a handsome man, about forty-two ; he looked 



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much older, as you might expect, when you called to 
mind all he has gone through, and how all his life 
was crowded with campaigns and great deeds. He 
talked with me at Marienbad of a plan which he was 
bent on executing, the union of the Rhine with the 
Danube, by means of a canal — a stupendous enter- 
prise, when you consider the obstacles offered by the 
locality. But a man who had served under Napoleon, 
and with him shaken the world, finds impossibilities 
nowhere. The Emperor Charles had the same plan, 
and even began the work, but soon came to a still 
stand. They could do nothing because of the sand ; 
the banks were always falling together again after the 
course had been dug out." 

Monday, 22d March. 

This morning I went with Goethe into his garden. 

The situation of this garden, on the farther side 
of the Ilm, near the park, and on the western 
declivity of a hill, gives it a very inviting aspect. It is 
protected from the north and east winds, but open to 
the cheering influences of the south and west, which 
makes it delightful, especially in spring and autumn. 

Towards the north-west lies the town. It is in fact 
so near, that you can be there in a few minutes, and 
yet you see not the top of a building, or even a spire, 
which could remind you of the neighborhood of men ; 
the tall and thickly-planted trees of the park shut out 
every other object on that side. 

Towards the west and south-west you have a free 
lookout over the wide meadows, through which, at 
about the distance of a bow-shot, the Ilm winds silently. 



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The opposite bank swells into a hill, whose summit and 
sides are clothed with the ash-trees, alders, poplars, and 
birches of the far-extended park, and give a beautiful 
limit to the view on the southern and western sides. 

This view of the park over the meadows gives a 
feeling, especially in summer, as if you were near a 
wood which extended leagues round about. You look 
to see deer bounding out upon the meadows. You 
enjoy the peace of the deepest natural solitude, for the 
silence is often uninterrupted, except by the notes of 
some lonely blackbird, or the song of the wood-thrush. 

Out of this dream of profound solitude we were 
now awakened by the striking of the tower clock, the 
screaming of the peacocks from the park, and the 
drums and horns of the military in the barracks. 
And it was not unpleasant to be thus reminded of the 
neighborhood of the friendly city, from which we 
seemed distant so many miles. 

At certain seasons, these meadows are far enough 
from being lonely. You see sometimes country people 
going to, or returning from, the Weimar market ; 
sometimes people walking along the windings of the 
Ilm towards Upper Weimar, which is much visited at 
times. Haying-time also animates the scene very 
agreeably. In the back-ground, you see flocks of 
sheep, and sometimes the stately Swiss cow, feeding. 

To-day, however, there were none of those summer 
sights and sounds which are so refreshing to the mind. 
Only on the meadows were visible some streaks of 
green ; the trees as yet could boast nothing but brown 
twigs and buds ; yet the stroke of the finch, with 



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occasional notes from the blackbird and thrush, 
announced the approach of spring. 

The air was pleasant and summerlike; a mild south- 
west wind was blowing. Certain appearances in the 
heavens drew Goethe's thoughts to the barometer ; 
he spoke of its rise and fall, which he called the 
affirmative and negative of water. He spoke of the 
eternal laws which regulate the inhaling and exhaling 
processes throughout the earth ; of a possible deluge ; 
that, though each place has its proper atmosphere, 
there is great uniformity in the state of the barometer 
throughout Europe ; that nature is incommensurable, 
and her laws often detected with great difficulty. 

While he instructed me on such high subjects, we 
were walking up and down the broad gravel-walk. 
We came near the garden-house, and he bid the 
servant unlock it, that he might show me the interior. 
Without, the whitewashed walls were covered with 
rose-bushes, trained over it on espaliers. I saw, with 
pleasure, on these rose-bushes many birds' nests, 
which had been there since the preceding summer, 
and, now that the bushes were bare of leaves, were 
exposed to the eye. There were many nests of the 
linnet and hedge-sparrow, built high or low, according 
to the different habits of those birds. 

In the lower story, I found only one room. The 
walls were hung -with some charts and engravings, 
and with a portrait of Goethe, as large as life, taken 
by Meyer just after the return of both friends from 
Italy. Goethe here appears in the prime of his powers 
and his manhood, brown, and rather stout. His 



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expression is composed and earnest, — that of a man 
on whose mind lies the weight of great designs. 

Up stairs, I found three rooms, and one little 
cabinet; but all very small, and not very convenient. 
Goethe said that, in earlier years, he had passed a 
great deal of his time, and worked here, in much 
tranquillity. 

The rooms were rather cold, and we returned into 
the open air. 

We talked a little on literary topics; but our 
attention was soon attracted by the natural objects 
in our path. The crown-imperials and lilies were 
sprouting, the mallows already green. 

The upper part of the garden, on the declivity of 
the hills, is covered with grass, and here and there a 
few fruit-trees. Paths wind up to the summit, and 
then return to the foot. I wished to ascend. Goethe 
walked swiftly before me, and I was rejoiced to see 
how active he is. 

On the hedge we saw a peahen, which seemed to 
have come from the park ; and Goethe remarked that 
he had, in summer time, been wont to allure the 
peacocks into his garden, by giving them such food as 
they loved. 

Descending on the other side of the hill, I found 
a stone, surrounded by shrubs, on which was carved 
this line from the well-known poem — 

Hier im stillen gedachte der Liebende seiner Geliebten ; 
" Here in silence the lover thought of her he loved j" 

and 1 felt as if I were on classic ground. 

i 



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Near this was a thicket of half-grown oaks, firs, 
birches, and beech-trees. Beneath a fir, I found the 
feather of a bird of prey ; and Goethe said he had 
often seen them in this place. I think it probable 
that owls resort to these firs. 

Passing this thicket, we found ourselves once more 
on the principal path near the house. In this place, 
the trees are planted in a semicircle, and overarch a 
space, in which we sat down on benches, which are 
placed about a round table. The sun was so powerful, 
that the shade, even of these leafless trees, was agree- 
able. " I know," said Goethe, " no pleasanter place, 
in the heats of summer, than this. I planted the trees 
forty years ago, with my own hand ; have had the 
pleasure of watching their growth ; and have already 
enjoyed their refreshing shade for some years. The 
foliage of these oaks and beeches is absolutely imper- 
vious to the sun. In hot summer days, I sit here after 
dinner ; and often over the meadows and the park such 
stillness reigns, that the ancients would say, ' Pan 
sleeps' " 

We now heard the tower-clock striking two, and 
returned to the house. 

Tuesday, 30th March. 

This evening, I was with Goethe. We talked of the 
French and German drama. Goethe spoke highly 
of Iffland and Kotzebue. " They have fine talents in 
their own way," said he, " and have been treated with 
such severity, only because men are not willing to 
criticise each production after its kind." 

He spoke of Platen's new dramas. " Here," said 



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he, " you see the influence of Calderon. They are 
full of thought, and, in a certain sense, complete ; but 
they want depth, want specific gravity. They will not 
excite in the mind of the reader a deep and abiding 
interest ; the strings of the soul are touched but 
lightly and hastily. They are like cork, which makes 
no impression on the element which so readily sus- 
tains it. 

" The German asks earnestness, a grandeur of 
thought, and fulness of sentiment ; these are the 
qualities which have made Schiller so admired by our 
people. I doubt not the abilities of Platen ; and, 
if he does not manifest the qualities I have mentioned, 
I think his failure proceeds from mistaken views 
of art. He shows distinguished culture, intellect, 
sparkling wit, and much adroitness as an artist ; yet 
these, especially in Germany, are not all that the 
drama demands. 

" Generally, the personal character of the writer 
influences the public, rather than his talents as an 
artist. Napoleon said of Corneille, ' If he were 
living now, I would make him a prince ; ' yet he 
never read him. Racine he read, but spoke not so 
of him. Lafontaine is looked upon with so high a 
degree of esteem among his countrymen, — not on 
the score of his poetic merits, but of the dignified 
character which he manifests in his writings." 

We then talked of the " Elective Affinities," 
( Wahlverwandtschaften.) He spoke of divorces. " The 
late Reinhard of Dresden," said he, " wondered that 
I should be so severe on the subject of marriage, 



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while I entertain such free opinions on other sub- 
jects." 

I treasured up this remark of Goethe's, because it 
showed so clearly what had been his own intention 
in that much misinterpreted romance. {Die Wahlver- 
wandtschaften.) 

The conversation turned upon Tieck, and his 
personal relation to Goethe. 

" I entertain the greatest kindness for Tieck," said 
Goethe, " and I think he is well disposed towards 
me ; yet is the relation between us not exactly what 
it should be. This is neither his fault nor mine, but 
occasioned by circumstances which I will tell you. 

" When the Schlegels began to be of note in the 
world, they found me too important for their views, 
and looked about for some man of genius, whom they 
might set up in opposition to me, and thus maintain 
the balance of power. They pitched upon Tieck; 
and, wishing to make him a fit rival in the eyes 
of the public, they exaggerated his pretensions, and 
placed him in an awkward position with regard 
to me. 

" Tieck is a man of great talents, and nobody can 
be more sensible than myself to his really extraordi- 
nary merit ; only, when they tried to raise him above 
his proper place, and speak of him as my equal, they 
made a great mistake. I do not hesitate to speak 
of myself as I am ; I did not make myself what I am. 
But I might, with as much propriety, compare myself 
with Shakspeare, who also is, as he was made, a being 
of a higher order than myself, to whom I must look 
up and pay due reverence." 



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Goethe was this evening full of energy and gayety. 
He read aloud some of his unpublished poems. I 
enjoyed hearing him exceedingly ; for, not only did 
I feel the original beauty of the poems, but Goethe's 
manner of reading them opened to me new views. 
What variety and force in his voice ! What life and 
expression in the noble countenance amid the wrinkles 
of so many years of thought ! And what eyes ! 

Wednesday, 14th April, 1824. 

I went to walk with Goethe about one. We dis- 
cussed the styles of various writers. 

"On the whole," said Goethe, "the turn for philo- 
sophical speculation is an injury to the Germans, as 
it tends to make style vague and obscure. The 
stronger their attachment to certain philosophical 
schools, the worse do they write. Those among us 
who deal chiefly with practical affairs write the best. 
Schiller's style is noble and impressive whenever he 
leaves off philosophizing. I observe this in his very 
interesting letters, with which I am now busy. 

" There are women in Germany, of genial tempera- 
ment, who write a really excellent style, and, indeed, 
in that respect, surpass many of our celebrated writers. 

" Englishmen almost always write well ; for they 
are born orators, and the practical tendency of their 
pursuits is very favorable to the formation of a good 
style. 

" The French, in this respect also, remain true to 
their general character. They are born for society, 
and therefore never forget the public in writing or 
speaking; they strive to be clear, that they may 

i 2 



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convince, — agreeable, that they may attract the 
reader. 

" Indeed, the style of a writer is almost always the 
faithful representative of his mind ; therefore, if any 
man wish to write a clear style, let him begin by 
making his thoughts clear ; and if any would write 
in a noble style, let him first possess a noble soul." 

Goethe then spoke of his antagonists, as a race 
which would never become extinct. "Their number," 
said he, " is Legion ; yet they may be classified with 
some precision. First, there are my stupid antago- 
nists, — those who find fault with me, because they 
do not understand me. This is a large company, 
who have wearied me extremely in the course of my 
life; yet shall they be forgiven, for they know not 
what they do. 

" The second class is composed of those who envy 
and hate me, because I have attained, through my 
talents, fame, fortune, and a dignified station. Should 
I become poor and miserable, they would assail me 
no more. 

" There are many who hate me because they have 
failed. In this class are men of fine powers, but who 
cannot forgive me, because I cast them into the 
shade. 

" Fourthly, there are my antagonists who have 
good reasons. For, as I am a human being, with 
human faults and weaknesses, it is not to be expected 
that my writings should be free from them. Yet, 
as I was constantly bent on my own improvement, 
and always striving to ennoble myself, I have often, 
as I advanced in my culture, been blamed for faults 



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which I had long since left behind. These critics 
have injured me least of any, as their darts were 
aimed at a place from which I was already miles 
distant. When a work is finished, it becomes unin- 
teresting to me; I think of it no more, but busy 
myself with some new plan. 

" Another large class comprises those who differ 
from me in their views and modes of thought. It is 
said, that on the same tree you will scarce find two 
leaves perfectly alike. Just so you will, among a 
thousand men, scarce find two, who harmonize entirely 
in their views and ways of thinking. This being 
allowed, I find less cause to marvel at my having 
so many opponents, than at my having so many friends 
and adherents. My tendencies were wholly opposed 
to those of my time, which were subjective ; so that 
my objective efforts left me in solitude, and kept me 
at disadvantage. 

" Schiller had, in this respect, great advantage over 
me. Indeed, a certain well-meaning General once 
gave me to understand, that I ought to write like 
Schiller. I replied by analyzing Schiller's merits, 
which I understood better than he. And I went 
quietly on in my own way, not troubling myself 
about outward success, and taking as little notice as 
possible of my opponents." 

We returned, and had a very pleasant time at dinner. 
Frau von Goethe talked much of Berlin, where she 
has lately been. She spoke with especial warmth 
of the Duchess of Cumberland, who had paid her 
many friendly attentions. Goethe remembered this 



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princess, who, when very young, had passed some time 
with his mother, with particular interest. 

In the evening, I partook of a musical entertain- 
ment of a high order. At the house of Goethe, some 
fine singers performed parts of Handel's Messiah, 
under the superintendence of Eberwein. Also, the 
Gräfin Caroline von Egloffstein, Fraulein von Froriep, 
with Frau von Pogwisch and Frau von Goethe, joined 
the choir of female singers, and thus gratified a wish 
which Goethe had entertained long since. 

Goethe, sitting at some distance, wholly absorbed in 
hearing, passed a happy evening in admiring a noble 
work. 

Monday, 19th April. 

The greatest philologist of our time, Friedrich 
August Wolf, from Berlin, is here, on his way 
towards the south of France. Goethe gave, to-day, on 
his account, a dinner-party of his Weimar friends. 
General Superintendent Röhr, Chancellor von Müller, 
Oberbau-Director Coudray, Professor Riemer, and 
Hofrath Rehbein, were the guests, beside Wolf and 
myself. The conversation was very pleasant. Wolf 
was full of witty sallies, — Goethe constantly opposing 
him, but in the pleasantest way. " I cannot," said 
Goethe to me afterwards, " converse with Wolf at all, 
without assuming the character of Mephistophiles. 
Besides, nothing less can induce him to display his 
hidden treasures." 

The bon mots at table were of too evanescent a 
nature to bear repetition. Wolf was rich in witty 



CONVERSATIONS. 



105 



sayings and striking remarks ; yet, to me, Goethe 
seemed always to maintain a certain superiority over 
him. 

The hours flew by, and six o'clock came before we 
were aware. I went with young Goethe to the the- 
atre, where the "Magic Flute" was given that night. 
Wolf came in the latter part of the evening, with the 
Grand Duke Karl August. 

Wolf remained in Weimar till the 25th, when he 
set out for the south of France. His health was in 
such a state, that Goethe expressed the greatest 
anxiety about him. 

Sunday, 2d May. 

Goethe reproved me for not having visited a certain 
family of distinction. " You might," said he, " have 
passed there, during the winter, many delightful 
evenings, and made the acquaintance of many inter- 
esting strangers ; all which you have lost from God 
knows what whim." 

"My disposition," I replied, "is so excitable, my 
sympathies are so strong and ready, that too great a 
multiplicity of new impressions is burdensome and 
hurtful to me. I am neither by education nor habit 
fitted for general society. My situation in earlier days 
was such, that I feel as if 1 had never lived till 1 
came near you. All is. new to me. Every evening 
at the theatre, every conversation with you, makes 
an era in my existence. Things perfectly indifferent 
to those who are accustomed to them, make a deep 
impression on me. I seize on every thing with 



106 



ECKERMANN. 



energy, and draw from every thing nourishment. I 
have had all I desired this winter, from the theatre 
and your society ; other connections and engagements 
would only have disturbed my mind." 

" You are an odd Christian," said Goethe, laughing. 
"Well, do as you please; I will let you alone for the 
future." 

"And then," continued I, "I carry always my 
feelings into society ; I like or dislike ; I feel the 
need of loving and being beloved ; I seek a nature 
which may harmonize with my own ; I wish to give 
myself up to such a one, and to have nothing to do 
with the others." 

" This tendency of yours," replied Goethe, " is 
indeed likely to unfit you for society ; for what would 
be the use of culture, if it did not teach us to modify 
and control our natural tendencies. 'Tis mere folly . 
to hope that other men will harmonize with us ; I 
have never been guided by such motives ; I have 
regarded each man as an independent individual, 
whom I might study, and whose characteristics I 
might learn to understand, but from whom I must 
not expect further sympathy. Only in this way have 
I been enabled to converse with every man, to obtain 
the knowledge of various characters, and the dexterity 
necessary for the conduct of life. For it is by conflict 
with natures opposed to his own that a man learns 
to show himself a man. Thus only can the various 
sides of the character be brought out, till it attains a 
certain completeness, and the man feels sure of 
himself in opposition to any and every man. This 
is what you need. You can do so, if you please ; 



CONVERSATIONS. 



107 



and, indeed, there is no evading the great world; 
you must find your place in it, whether you will 
or no." 

I took due heed of these good words, and shall be 
guided by them as far as I can. 

Towards evening, Goethe invited me to take a drive 
with him. Our road lay over hills through Upper 
Weimar, by which we had a view of the park towards 
the west. The trees were in blossom, the birches 
already in full leaf. The setting sun cast a broad 
glow over the wide green meadows. We busied our- 
selves with seeking out picturesque groups, and could 
not look enough. We remarked that these trees, full 
of white blossoms, are not adapted for pictures, as the 
leafy birches are unfit for the foreground of a picture ; 
because the delicate leaf does not sufficiently contrast 
with the white trunk; — there were no masses large 
enough for fine effects of light and shade. " Ruys- 
dael," said Goethe, "never introduced the birch with 
its foliage into his foregrounds, but only birch trunks 
broken off at top, without any leaves. Such a trunk 
is very effective in a foreground, its shape has such 
natural prominence." 

After some slight discussion of other topics, we 
came upon the mistake of those artists who make 
religion the object of art, while art itself should be 
their religion. " Religion," said Goethe, " stands in 
the same relation to art as any other great interest 
of life. It is merely to be looked upon as affording 
materia] for the artist. Faith is not the faculty by 
which you are to comprehend a work of art ; that is 
calculated to call into action wholly different faculties. 



108 



ECKERMANN. 



And art must address itself to those parts of our being 
which are intended for the appreciation of her achieve- 
ments. A religious subject may be a good one for 
art, but only in so far as it possesses general human 
interest. The Virgin with the Child is an excellent 
subject, and one that we may see treated a hundred 
times, yet not be weary." 

Returning homeward, we had the setting sun in full 
view. Goethe was lost awhile in thought. He then 
said to me, in the words of one of the ancients, 

Untergehend sogar isfs immer diesclbige Sonne. 
" Even while sinking it remains the same sun." 

" At the age of seventy-five," continued he, with 
animation, " one must, of course, think frequently 
of death. But this thought never gives me the least 
uneasiness, — I am so fully convinced that the soul 
is indestructible, and that its activity will continue 
through eternity. It is like the sun, which seems 
to our earthly eyes to set in night, but is in reality 
gone to diffuse its light elsewhere." 

While he said this, the sun had sunk behind the 
Ettersberge, and the chill of the evening warned us 
to hasten homeward. Goethe urged me to go in with 
him for a while, and I did so. He was in an extremely 
engaging, amiable mood. He talked of his Farben- 
lehre, and of his obstinate opponents ; remarking that 
he was sure that he had done something for the cause 
of science. 

" That a man should be able to make an epoch in 
the world's history," said he, " two conditions are 



CONVERSATIONS. 109 

essential, — that he should have a good head, and a 
great inheritance. Napoleon inherited the French 
Revolution ; Frederic the Great, the Silesian War ; 
Luther, the errors of the Popes; and I, those of the 
Newtonian theory. My own time has no conception of 
what I have accomplished ; but posterity will know." 

We spoke of notes which I had found among his 
papers, written at the time when he was training Wolf 
and Grüner for the stage. I thought these might be 
so instructive to young actors, that I proposed to put 
them together, and make from them a sort of theatre 
catechism. Goethe consented. 

We spoke of some distinguished actors, who had 
been formed in his school ; and I asked some questions 
about Frau von Heigendorf. " I may," said Goethe, 
" have influenced her, but I cannot speak of her as my 
pupil. She seemed born for the stage, and was, in all 
she undertook, as decided, ready, and adroit, as a duck 
in the water. She needed not instruction, but did 
what was right instinctively and unconscious! v." 

We then talked of his superintendent ! of the 
theatre; and it was remarked how much time he had 
lavished there which might have been devoted to 
literature. " Yes," said he, "I have b) this means 
missed, no doubt, writing many a good thing ; yet do 
I not repent. I have always regarded all 1 live done 
solely as symbolical; and, at bottom, it does not 
signify whether I made pots or dishes." 

Thursday Sth May. 
When I came to Weimar, last summer. I did not 
intend to remain, but, after having bee ;quainted 

K 



110 



ECK ERMANN. 



with Goethe, to visit the Rhine, and live there some 
time, if I could find a place which suited me. 

I had been detained at Weimar by Goethe's kind- 
ness, and the various services I had been able to 
render him, but had never forgotten my original 
project ; and Goethe himself, unwilling that I should 
carry within me the sting of an unsatisfied desire, 
advised me to devote some months of this summer 
to the fulfilment of my project. 

It was, however, decidedly his wish, that I should 
return to Weimar. He observed that it was not well 
to break ties as soon as they have been made, and that 
nothing which has not sequence is of any value in 
life. And he intimated that he wished to join me 
with Riemer, not only to aid him in preparing a new 
and complete edition of his works, but to take charge 
of it in case he should be suddenly called away, as 
might naturally happen at his age. 

He showed me immense packages of letters, laid 
out in what is called the Chamber of Busts, (Büsten- 
Zimmer.) "These," said he, "are letters which I 
have been receiving since 1780, from the most distin- 
guished men of our country. There lies hoarded a 
rich treasure of thoughts, which it shall some time be 
your office to impart to the public. A chest is now 
making, in which I shall put these letters, with the 
rest of my literary legacies. I wish you, before you 
leave me, to put all these papers in order, that I may 
feel tranquil about them, and have a care the less." 

He then told me that he should probably visit 
Marienbad again this summer, and disclosed to me, 
in confidence, his reasons. He wishes me to return 



CONVERSATIONS. 



Ill 



from my journey, if possible, before his departure ; 
that he may have an opportunity to converse with me. 

A few weeks after, I went to see my betrothed at 
Hanover, and passed June and July in the neighbor- 
hood of the Rhine ; making, especially at Bonn, 
Frankfort, and Heidelberg, many valuable acquaint- 
ances among the friends of Goethe. 

Tuesday, 10th August. 
I returned to Weimar about eight days since. 
Goethe expressed lively joy at seeing me, and I was 
not less happy to be once more with him. He had 
so much to tell me, that I scarcely left his side for 
several days. He has decided not to go to Marienbad, 
or take any journey, this summer. " And now that 
you have come," said he, yesterday, " I shall pass a 
pleasant August here." 

[Here follow some remarks on the first part of 
the continuation of Dichtung und Wahrheit, which 
Goethe communicated to Eckermann at this time. 
This fragment has since been published among 
Goethe's posthumous works, but has never been 
translated into English, and the remarks would not 
be intelligible to those who are not acquainted 
with it. 

I have also omitted some detached sayings of 
Goethe, as not being set down in a form sufficiently 
precise to do him justice. — Transl.] 



112 



ECKERMANN. 



Tuesday, 9th November. 
I passed this evening with Goethe. We talked 
of Klopstock and Herder. " Without such founders," 
said Goethe, " our literature could not have become 
what it now is. In their own day they were before- 
hand with the age which they were obliged to drag 
along in their track ; but now the age has far outrun 
them, and they are no longer necessary or influential. 
A young man would be left in the rear, who should 
take Klopstock and Herder for his teachers now- 
a-days." 

We talked over the faults and merits both of 
Klopstock's "Messiah" and of his Odes. We agreed 
that he had no faculty for observing and painting the 
external world, or for drawing characters ; and that 
he wanted the qualities most essential to the. epic and 
dramatic poet, or, perhaps it might be said, more 
generally, to the poet. 

" In the ode, for instance," said Goethe, " where he 
makes the German Muse run a race with the British, — 
only consider, what a picture ! — two maidens running, 
throwing out their feet, and kicking up a dust ! If the 
good Klopstock had ever been in the habit of really 
imagining, making pictures to himself of what he 
wrote, he could nov have made such mistakes." 

I asked how he had felt towards Klopstock in his 
youth. 

" I venerated him," said Goethe, " with the devotion 
which was natural to me. I looked upon him as an 
uncle. I never once thought of criticism, but reve- 
renced whatever he had done. I let his fine qualities 
work upon me ; for the rest, I went my own way," 



CONVERSATIONS. 



113 



I asked Goethe which of Herder's works he thought 
the best. " The * Ideas for the History of the Human 
Race,' " (Ideen zur Geschichte der Menschheit,) replied 
Goethe, " are undoubtedly the best. In after days, he 
leaned to the negative side, and was not so edify- 
ing." 

" Herder," said I, " is a person of such weight, that 
I cannot understand his want of judgment on some 
subjects. I cannot forgive him, especially at that 
period of German literature, for sending back the 
manuscript of Goetz von Bcrlichingen, without any 
praise of its merits, and with taunts upon its faults. 
He must want organs to perceive some objects." 

" Yes, Herder was unfortunate in those respects," 
replied Goethe; " and, indeed," added he, with vivaci- 
ty, " if his spirit could be present at this conversation, 
it would not be able to conjecture what we mean." 

" On the other hand," said I, " I must praise Merck, 
who urged you to publish Goetz. } ' 

" He was indeed a strong man," said Goethe. " He 
urged me to publish, saying that, though imperfect, 
it was worth publishing. He did not wish me to labor 
any more on it, and he was right. I should have 
altered, but not improved it." 

Wednesday, 24th November. 
I went to see Goethe this evening, before going to 
the theatre, and found him well and cheerful. He 
inquired about the young Englishmen who are here. 
I told him that I proposed reading with Mr. Doolan 
the German translation of Plutarch. This led us 

k2 



114 



ECKERMANN. 



to speak of Roman and Grecian history. Goethe 
said, — 

" The Roman history does not suit our present 
turn of mind. We take a more general interest in 
humanity, and cannot sympathize with the triumphs 
of Caesar. Neither are we much edified by the history 
of Greece. When the whole people united against 
a foreign foe, then, indeed, is their history great and 
glorious ; but the division of the states, and their 
eternal wars with one another, where Greek fights 
against Greek, are insufferable. Besides, the history 
of our own time is so full of important events, the 
battles of Leipsic and Waterloo so grand, that 
Marathon and other such days are entirely eclipsed. 
Neither are our great men inferior to theirs. Welling- 
ton, Blucher, and the French Marshals, vie with any 
of the heroes of antiquity." 

We talked of the late French literature, and the 
increasing interest manifested by the French in Ger- 
man works. 

" The French," said Goethe, " do well to study and 
translate our writers ; for, limited as they are, both 
in form and principles of action, they must turn 
elsewhere for aid. We Germans may be reproached 
for the shapelessness of what we make ; but in 
materials we have the superiority. The theatrical pro- 
ductions of Kotzebue and Iffland are so rich in sug- 
gestions that they may pluck a long time, before 
they strip the tree. But especially is our philosophical 
Ideality welcome to them ; for every Ideal is service- 
able to revolutionary aims. 



CONVERSATIONS. 



115 



" The French have understanding and esprit, but 
neither a solid basis nor piety. 1 What serves the 
moment, what helps his party, seems right to the 
Frenchman. And they praise us, not according to 
our merits, but to the degree in which our views 
may assist this or that party." 

Friday, 3d December. 

To-day, a proposal reached me from an English 
periodical. I was offered very favorable terms, if I 
would send to this journal monthly notices of the 
latest publications in our own country. I was much 
inclined to accept the proposal, but thought I would 
first consult Goethe. 

I went to him this evening. He was seated before 
a table, on which burned two lights, which illuminated 
at once his own face and a colossal bust at which he 
was looking. " Now," said Goethe, after greeting me 
in a friendly manner, "who is this?" "Apparently, 
a poet, and an Italian," I replied. " 'Tis Dante," said 
he. " It is well done ; a fine head, yet not perfectly 
satisfactory. He seems bowed down with years and 
sorrows; the features are lax, and drawn downwards, 
as if he had just come from hell. I have a medal, 
which was struck during his life, and which is much 
better." 

He rose and brought the medal. " Do you see how 

1 [Our word " piety " does not answer to the German Pietat, 
which expresses the natural desire of the mind to reverence 
something, and is not used in our sense of a conscious love of 
the Deity, known as such. — Transl.] 



116 



ECKERMANN. 



full of strength the profile is ? Look at the nose, — 
at the upper lip, — see how finely the chin is marked 
and united with the cheek ! The lines about the eyes, 
the forehead, are the same in this bust; but all the 
rest is weaker and older. Yet I will not find fault 
with this new work ; truly, it has great merit, and 
deserves praise." 

He then inquired what I had been doing and 
thinking of late. I mentioned the proposal from 
England, and my inclination to accept it. His face, 
which had worn before so pleasant and friendly an 
expression, clouded over instantly, and I saw in every 
feature how far he was from favoring this project. 

" I wish," said he, " your friends would leave you 
in peace. What have you to do with such a plan ? 
It lies quite out of your way, and is contrary to the 
tendencies of your nature. Gold, silver, paper money, 
all are good ; but, to do justice to each, you must 
understand its law of exchange. And so in literature. 
You understand the metallic, but not the paper cur- 
rency. You are not accustomed to such a task ; your 
criticisms will be worthless, and do hurt. If you 
wish to be just, and give each author his proper place, 
you must first become acquainted with our preceding 
literature — no light task for you. You must look 
back on what the Schlegels proposed and performed, 
and then read our later authors, Franz Horn, Hoff- 
mann, &c. You must also read all the journals of the 
day, in order that nothing which comes out may escape 
you ; and thus misspend your best days and hours. 
Then all new books, which you would criticise proper- 
ly, you must not only skim over, but study. How 



CONVERSATIONS. 



117 



shall you relish that? And, finally, if you venture to 
say that what is bad is bad, you will find yourself at 
war with all the world. 

" No ! decline the proposal ; and, generälly, let me 
say to you, beware of dissipating your powers ; strive 
constantly to concentrate them. Had I known, thirty 
years ago, what I do now on this subject, I would have 
done very differently. How much time I lost with 
Schiller on his Horm and Musen Almanacks ! Now, 
when I have just been looking over our correspondence, 
I feel this most forcibly, and cannot think without 
chagrin on those undertakings which made the world 
abase us, and led to no good in any way. Genius 
thinks it can do whatever it sees others doing ; but it 
will be sure to repent some time of every ill-judged 
outlay. What good does it do to curl up your hair 
for a single night 1 You have paper in your hair, that 
is all ; next night it is straight again. 

« Make to yourself a capital that will be permanently 
valuable. This you may do by the study of the 
English language and literature, which you have 
already begun. Keep to that, and make use of the 
advantages you now possess in the acquaintance of the 
young Englishmen. You have not been able greatly 
to avail yourself of the ancient languages during your 
youth ; seek now a strong-hold in the literature of so 
able a nation as the English. And, besides, how large 
a portion of our literature is the offspring of theirs ! 
Whence have we our romances, our tragedies, but 
from Goldsmith, Fielding, and Shakspeare? In our 
own day, can we find in Germany three literary heroes, 
who can be placed on a level with Lord Byron, Moore 2 



118 



ECKERMANN. 



and Walter Scott? Once more, confirm yourself in 
your acquaintance with the English literature, concen- 
trate your powers for some suitable work, and let all 
go which can lead to nothing of value to you, and is 
not adapted to your nature." 

I rejoiced that Goethe had said so much. I was 
• perfectly satisfied in my mind, and determined to 
comply with his advice. 

Chancellor von Müller was now announced, and 
sat down with us. The conversation turned once 
more on the bust of Dante, and on his life and works. 
The obscurity of this author was mentioned, — how 
few of his countrymen, much less foreigners, could 
fully understand him. " To you," said Goethe, turn- 
ing towards me, with a friendly air, " the study of 
this poet is absolutely forbidden by your father con- 
fessor." 

Goethe also remarked that the difficult rhyme is, 
in a great measure, the cause of his obscurity. For 
the rest, he spoke of Dante with extreme reverence; 
and I observed that he was not satisfied with the words 
talent or genius, but called him a nature, wishing thus 
to express something more comprehensive, more full 
of prescience, of deeper insight, and wider scope. 

Thursday, 9th December. 

I went this evening to Goethe. He cordially held 
out his hand, and greeted me with praises of my poem 
on Schellhorn's Jubilee. 

I told him that I had written to refuse the proposal 
from England. ''Thank Heaven!" said he; "then 
you are free and at peace once more. And let me 



CONVERSATIONS. 119 

give you a warning. The composers will be coming 
to you for an opera, — be sure you refuse that also; 
it is work which leads to nothing, and only wastes 
the time of him who undertakes it." 

Goethe added, that he had, through Nees von Esen- 
beck, let the author of the " Paria," who is now at 
Bonn, know that his piece has been performed here. 
"Life," said he, "is short; we must miss no oppor- 
tunity of giving pleasure to one another." 

The Berlin Gazette lay before him, and he showed 
me the account of the great inundation at Petersburg. 
He talked of the bad situation of Petersburg, and 
mentioned, with a smile, the remark of Rousseau, 
* that none need expect to prevent earthquakes by 
building cities in the neighborhood of volcanic moun- 
tains." " Nature," said he, " goes steadily her own 
way, and what to us appears the exception, is in reality 
done according to the rule." 

We spoke of the tempests which have raged on 
every shore, and the other phenomena mentioned in 
the journals of the day, and I asked whether he could 
trace the connection of all these. " No one can do 
that," said he; "one can scarcely have an inward 
feeling of the law which regulates such mysteries, 
much less express it." 

Coudray and Professor Riemer were now announced. 
We continued to' talk of the inundation, and Coudray, 
by drawings, made clear to us the plan of Petersburg, 
the course of the Neva, and other particulars of the 
locality. 



120 



ECKERMANN. 



Monday, 10th January, 1825. 
Goethe is much interested always in the English, 
and has desired me to introduce to him the young 
Englishmen who are here at present. He appointed 
five o'clock this afternoon for the reception of Mr. H., 
the English engineer officer, of whom I had previously 
been able to say much good to him. We were con- 
ducted to the pleasant, well-warmed apartment, where 
Goethe usually passes his afternoons and evenings. 
Three lights were burning on the table, but he was 
not there; we heard him talking in the adjoining 
saloon. 

While we waited, Mr. H. was looking about him, 
and observed, besides the pictures and a large chart 
of the hills which adorned the walls, a book-case full 
of portfolios. I told him these portfolios contained 
drawings from the hands of many celebrated masters, 
and engravings after the best pictures of all schools, 
which Goethe had. during a long life, been gradually 
collecting, and which now were to him a fertile source 
of entertainment. 

After a few minutes, Goethe came in, and greeted 
us very cordially. He said to Mr. H., " I presume I 
may address you in German, as I hear you are already 
well versed in our language." Mr. H. answered very 
politely, though in few words, and Goethe requested 
us to be seated. 

Mr. H.'s manners and appearance must have made 
a very favorable impression on Goethe ; for his sweet- 
ness and mild serenity were manifested towards the 
stranger in their natural beauty. " You did well," 
said he, " to come hither to learn German ; for you 



CONVERSATIONS. 



121 



will carry away, not only a knowledge of the language, 
which you will here learn easily and quickly, but of 
the elements on which it rests, our soil, climate, modes 
of life, manners, social habits, and constitution." 

Mr. H. replied, " The interest taken, in England, 
in the study of the German language, increases daily, 
and has become, indeed, so general, that few young 
Englishmen of good families omit to learn German." 

" We Germans," said Goethe, good-humoredly, 
" were, however, half a century beforehand with you 
in this matter. These fifty years, I have been busy 
with the English language and literature; so that I 
now am well acquainted with your writers, your ways 
of living, and the administration of your country. 
If I should visit England, I should not feel myself a 
stranger there. 

" But, as I said before, you young Englishmen do 
well to come to us and learn our language ; for, not 
only does our own literature merit attention, but no 
one can deny that he who knows German can dispense 
with many other languages. French, indeed, cannot 
be dispensed with; for it is the language of conversa- 
tion, and essential to comfort in travelling, as every 
body understands it, and in all countries it serves you 
instead of an interpreter. But, as for Greek, Latin, 
Italian, and Spanish, we can read the best works 
of those nations in such excellent German translations, 
that, unless we have some particular object in view, 
we may well dispense with spending much time upon 
the toilsome study of their languages. It is the 
German nature duly to honor every thing produced 
by other nations, and to sympathize fully with what 

L 



122 



ECKERMANN. 



is foreign. This, with the great flexibility of our 
language, makes German translations both faithful 
and complete. And you get a great deal from a good 
translation. Frederic the Great read Cicero in French 
only, but with no less profit than others who read him 
in Latin." 

Then, turning the conversation on the theatre, he 
asked Mr. H. whether he went frequently thither. 
" Every evening," he replied, " and find that I derive 
from this custom great advantage in learning the 
language." 

" It is remarkable," said Goethe, " how the power 
of understanding gets the start of that of expressing ; 
so that a man may comprehend all he hears, when, 
as yet, he can express but a very small part of it." 

"I experience daily," said Mr. H., " the truth of 
that remark, I understand very well whatever I hear 
or read ; I feel it when a bad expression is made use 
of in German. But, when I speak, nothing will flow, 
and I cannot express myself as I wish. In light con- 
versation at Court, jests with the ladies, chat at balls, 
and the like, I already succeed pretty well. But, if I 
try to express opinions on any important topic, to say 
any thing characteristic or of much thought, I fail 
utterly ; the proper words will not come." 

" Be not discouraged by that," said Goethe, " since 
fit expression of such is hard enough in one's mother 
tongue." 

He asked what books Mr. H. had read in German. 
" I have read * Egmont,' " he replied, " and found so 
much pleasure in the perusal, that I have repeated it 
three times. * Torquato Tasso/ too, has afforded me 



CONVERSATIONS. 



123 



high enjoyment. Now, I am reading 'Faust,' which 
I find somewhat difficult." 

Goethe laughed at these last words. " Really," said 
he, " I would not have advised you to undertake 
* Faust.' It is mad stuff, and quite beyond the cus- 
tomary range of feeling. But, since you have begun 
without asking my advice, we shall see how you will 
get through. Faust is so peculiar an individual, 
that few men can sympathize with the situation of his 
mind. And the character of Mephistophiles is, on 
account of the irony and extensive acquaintance with 
the world which it displays, not easily to be compre- 
hended. But you will see what lights open upon you. 
4 Tasso ' lies far nearer the common feelings of men, 
and all there is told with a minuteness and detail very 
favorable to an easy comprehension of it." 

"Yet," said Mr. H., "' Tasso' is thought difficult 
in Germany, and people have wondered to hear that 
I was reading it." 

" What is needed for ( Tasso,' " replied Goethe, " is, 
that one should be no longer a child, and have been 
in good society. A young man of good family and 
capacity, with that delicacy and outward culture, 
which intercourse with accomplished men of the 
higher class will naturally produce, could find no 
difficulties in 1 Tasso.' " 

He afterwards said, "I wrote 'Egmont' in 1775, — 
fifty years ago. I adhered closely to history, and was 
very sedulous after accuracy. Ten years after, I read 
in the newspapers that the revolutionary scenes there 
described were repeating, d la lettre, in the Nether- 



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lands. I saw from this that the world remains ever the 
same, and that my picture must be true to life." 

Amid this and other conversation, the hour for the 
theatre had come. We rose, and Goethe dismissed 
us in a friendly manner. 

As we went homeward, 1 asked Mr. H. how he was 
pleased with Goethe. " I have never,' 5 said he, " seen 
a man who combined such attractive gentleness with 
such native dignity. However he may condescend, 
he always seems the great man." 

Tuesday, 18th January, 1825. 
I went to Goethe about five o'clock. I had not seen 
him before for some days, and passed a delightful 
evening. I found him talking, during the twilight, 
with his son, and with Hofrath Rehbein, his physician. 
I seated myself at the table with them. We talked 
awhile in the dusk ; then lights were brought, and I 
had the happiness to see Goethe looking perfectly fresh 
and cheerful. 

As usual, he inquired with interest what had 
happened to me of late, and I replied that I had 
made the acquaintance of a poetess. At the same 
time, I praised her uncommon talents, and Goethe, 
who was acquainted with some of her productions, 
agreed with me. " One of her poems," said he, " in 
which she describes the country near her home, is 
highly individual in its character. She has a good 
way of treating outward objects, and is not destitute 
of valuable inward qualities. Indeed, we might find 
much fault with her ; but we will let her go, and not 



CONVERSATIONS. 



125 



disturb her in the path to which her talent inclines 
her." 

The conversation turning on poetesses in general, 
Hofrath Rehbein remarked that the poetical talent 
of women often seemed to him as a sexual instinct 
of the intellect. " Hear him ! " said Goethe, laughing, 
and looking at me; " that is truly the reason of a 
physician ! " 

"I know not," said Rehbein, "whether I express 
myself aright; but what I mean is this: — Usually, 
these beings have not been fortunate in love, and 
they seek compensation in intellectual pursuits. " Had 
they been married, and had the care of children, they 
would never have thought of poetical productions." 

" I will not inquire," said Goethe, " how far you 
are right ; but, as to the talents of women in other 
departments, I have always found that they were not 
active after marriage. I have known girls who drew 
finely ; but, so soon as they became wives and mothers, 
you heard no more of it : they were too busy with the 
children to remember the pencil. 

" But our poetesses," continued he, in a lively 
manner, " might write as they pleased, if only our 
men would not write like women. That does, indeed, 
displease me. Look at our magazines and annuals ; 
see how all becomes daily weaker and weaker. Were 
a leaf from Cellini printed in to-day's newspaper, what 
a figure it would make ! 

" However, let us forget all that, and rejoice in the 
powerful maiden of Halle, who with manly spirit intro- 
duces us into the Servian world. These poems are ex- 
cellent." And he showed me the sheets of what he had 



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ECKERMANN. 



written upon them for Kunst und Alterthum, saying", 
" I have given, in few words, the meaning of some 
of these poems, and think you will be pleased with 
them. Rehbein, too, is not ignorant of what belongs 
to poetry, — at least as to its bearing and material, — 
and he may like to hear you read aloud from this 
paper." 

I read it aloud, and very slowly. These descriptions 
were so marked and expressive, that each word seemed 
to present a whole poem to my eye. I was especially 
pleased with the following : — 

1. Modesty of a Servian maiden, who never raises 
her beautiful eyelashes. 

2. Conflict in the mind of a lover, who, as grooms- 
man, is obliged to conduct his beloved to another. 

3. Being distressed about her lover, the maiden will 
not sing, lest she should seem gay. 

4. Complaints of the corruption of manners; how 
youths marry widows, and old men virgins. 

5. Complaint of a youth that a mother gives her 
daughter too much liberty. 

6. Confidingly joyous talk of a maiden with the 
steed who might betray to her his master's inclinations 
and designs. 

7. Distaste of the maiden for him she cannot 
love. 

8. The fair bar-maid : her lover is not among the 
guests. 

9. Finding, and tenderly awaking, the lover. 

10. Of what calling shall my husband be? 

11. Joys of love lost by babbling. 



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12. The lover comes back from a journey, watches 
her by day, surprises her with a visit at night. 

I remarked that these mere sketches excited in me 
such lively emotions, that I felt as if I were in 
possession of the whole poem, and had no desire for 
the details. 

" That shows," said Goethe, " the great importance 
of situations. Our women have no conception of this. 
' That poem is beautiful,' they say, and think of 
nothing but the feelings, the words, the verses. No 
one dreams that the true power of a poem consists 
in the choice of situation, of Motiven. 1 Thus are 
thousands of poems written, where the Motiv is nothing 
at all, and which, merely through feeling and sounding 
verse, represent a sort of existence. Dilettanti, and 
especially women, have very weak ideas of poetry. 
They think, if they could but pass by the technical 
part, they should have the essential, and be made 
people ; but they are quite mistaken." 

Rehbein took leave, and Professor Riemer was 
announced. The conversation still turned on the 
Servian love-lays. Riemer remarked that you need 
not go back to the Servians for some of these Motiven, 
which had already been used in Germany. We both 
remembered poems of his, and of Goethe's, in which 
this was the case. 

" The world," said Goethe, " remains always the 
same ; situations are constantly repeated ; one people 

1 [For this frequently recurring word I cannot always find 
any in English which suits its position. — Transl.] 



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ECKERMANN. 



lives, loves, and feels like another; — why should not 
one poet write like another ? The situations of life 
resemble one another ; — why should not those of 
poems ?" 

" Did not," said Riemer, " such resemblances exist, 
how could we understand the poems of other na- 
tions?" 

" I am, therefore, surprised," said I, " at those 
critics, who always seem to suppose that the poet 
goes, not from life to his poem, but from books to 
his poem. They are always saying, ' He got this 
here ; he got that there.' For instance, do they meet 
with passages in Shakspeare which are to be found 
in some of the ancients, they say he must have taken 
them from the ancients. Because both Homer and 
Shakspeare, on seeing a beautiful girl, have said the 
parents were happy who called her daughter, and the 
youth who should lead her home as his bride, shall we 
suppose Shakspeare took the thought from Homer? 
As if such things came not daily within the reach 
of any and every one ! " 

" Ah, yes," said Goethe, " such criticisms are very 
ridiculous." 

" Lord Byron," said I, " was not wiser, when he 
pulled * Faust ' to pjeces, and pretended to find some 
of the materials here, some there." 

" I never read," said Goethe, " the greater part 
of those fine things collected by Lord Byron, much 
less thought of them, when I was writing ' Faust.' 
But Lord Byron is only great as a poet ; when he 
would reflect, he is a child. He knows not how to 
help himself against the stupid attacks made upon 



CONVERSATIONS. 



129 



him by his own countrymen. He ought to have put 
them down in a more determined manner. ' What 
is there, is mine,' he should have said. ' Whether I 
got it from a book or from life, is of no consequence, 
if I do but use it aright.' Walter Scott used a scene 
from my * Egmont,' and he had a right to do so ; 
I must praise him for the judicious manner in which 
he did it. He has also copied my Mignon, in one 
of his romances ; but whether he was equally judicious 
there, is another question. Lord Byron has borrowed 
from Mephistophiles, and why not? If he had gone 
further in search after originality, he would have 
fared worse. My Mephistophiles sings a song from 
Shakspeare ; why should T give myself the trouble 
to compose one of my own, when this was perfectly 
suited to express my meaning ? For the same reason, 
there is no fault to be found with any resemblance 
which may exist between the prologue to my * Faust ' 
and that to the history of Job." 

Goethe was in the best humor. He sent for wine, 
and filled for Riemer and me; he himself drank 
Marienbad water. He had appointed this evening for 
looking over the manuscript of the continuation of his 
autobiography with Riemer, in order that they might 
see what amendment was needed, before sending it 
to press. " Let Eckermann stay and hear it too," 
said Goethe ; which words I was very glad to hear. 
And he then gave Riemer the manuscript, beginning 
with the year 1795. 

I had already, in the course of the summer, had the 
pleasure of reading the as yet unpublished record 
of these years. I had read them repeatedly, and 



130 



ECKERMANN. 



mused much upon them. But to hear them read aloud 
in Goethe's presence, afforded a quite new enjoyment. 
Riemer received many hints as to expression, and I 
had occasion to admire his dexterity, and his affluence 
of words and phrases. The epoch described in those 
pages became reanimate in Goethe's mind; he revelled 
in recollections, and filled out the narration to the 
roundness of life, by the details he gave us. That 
was a precious evening ! The most distinguished 
of his contemporaries were talked over; most of all, 
Schiller, who was so interwoven with this period, from 
1795 to 1800. The theatre had given an object to the 
efforts of both, and Goethe's best works belong to this 
time. Then Wilhelm Meister was completed ; Her- 
mann und Dorothea planned and written; Cellini 
translated for the Horcn ; Xenien written by both 
for Schiller's Musen Almanack ; — every day brought 
many points of contact. Of all this we talked this 
evening, and Goethe made the most interesting com- 
munications. 

" Hermann und Dorothea" said he, " is almost 
the only one of my larger poems which still satisfies 
me ; I can never read it without strong interest. I 
love it best in the Latin translation ; there it seems 
to me nobler, and as if it had returned to its original 
form." 

In talking of Wilhelm Meister, — "Schiller blamed 
me for interweaving tragic elements which do not 
belong to romance. Yet he was wrong, as we all 
know. His letters to me contain very valuable criti- 
cisms upon Wilhelm Meister. But this work is a 
most incalculable production ; I myself can scarcely be 



CONVERSATIONS. 



131 



said to have the key. The critic seeks a central point, 
which is, in truth, hard to find. I should think a rich 
manifold life, brought close to our eyes, might suffice, 
without any determined moral tendency which could 
be reasoned upon. But, if this is insisted upon, it 
will perhaps be found in what Frederic, at the end, 
says to the hero — ' Thou seem'st to me like Saul, the 
son of Kish, who went out to seek his father's asses, 
and found a kingdom.' For what does the whole say, 
but that man, despite all his follies and errors, led by a 
higher hand, reaches some worthy aim at last?" 

We then talked of the high degree of culture, 
which, during the last fifty years, had become general 
among the middle classes of Germany. Goethe as- 
cribed the merit of this not so much to Lessing as to 
Herder and Wieland. " Lessing," said he, " had so 
superior an understanding, that only one of equal force 
could truly learn of him. It was dangerous to know 
him by halves." He mentioned a journalist who had 
formed himself on Lessing, and, at the end of the last 
century, played a part indeed, but far from a desirable 
one, because so inferior to his great predecessor. 

"All Upper Germany," said he, "may thank Wie- 
land for its style. It has learned many things from 
him ; and facility of expression is not the least 
important." 

He praised highly the Xenien of Schiller for their 
force and sharpness, deeming his own insignificant and 
pointless in comparison. " Schiller's Thierkreis ," said 
he, " I read with ever new admiration. The good 
effects which the Xenien had upon the German 
literature of their own time are beyond calculation." 



132 



ECKERMANN. 



After much more conversation on these subjects, 
Goethe put aside the papers, and had a little supper 
placed on one end of the table by which we were 
sitting. We partook of it, but Goethe touched 
nothing; as, indeed, I have never seen him eat in the 
evening. He sat down with us, filled our glasses, took 
care of the lights, and entertained us with the most 
agreeable conversation. He was so full of Schiller 
this evening, that all this part of the conversation 
turned on him. 

Riemer spoke of Schiller's personal appearance. 
" His mien, his gait in the street, all his motions," said 
he, " were proud ; his eyes only were soft." 

" Yes," said Goethe, " every thing else about him 
was proud and majestic, only the eyes were soft. And 
his genius was like his outward form. He seized 
boldly on a great subject, turning it hither and thither, 
and looking at it on every side. But he saw, as I may 
say, only the outside of an object ; he could not enter 
into it, and quietly unfold it from within. His talent 
was rather desultory. Thus he was never decided, 
could never be sure he had done. He often altered 
parts just before a rehearsal. 

" And, as he went so boldly to work, he did not 
take sufficient pains to provide his actions with 
motives. I had trouble enough with him about a 
scene in his ' William Tell,' where he made Gessler 
abruptly break an apple from the tree, and bid Tell 
shoot it from his boy's head. This was very uncon- 
genial to me, and I urged him to give some motive 
to Gessler's conduct, by at least making the boy boast 
to Gessler of his father's dexterity, and say that he 



CONVERSATIONS. 



133 



could shoot an apple from a tree at a hundred paces' 
distance. Schiller, at first, could see no need of this ; 
but, in the end, he yielded. I, on the other hand, by 
too great attention to motives, injured my pieces for 
the theatre. My 1 Eugenie,' being nothing but a chain 
of motives, is not suited to the stage. 

" Schiller's genius was made for the theatre. He 
constantly grew more and more complete ; but a love 
for the terrible lingered with him from the time of his 
' Robbers,' which, in his 4 prime, still tinged his 
thoughts. In the prison scene of my ' Egmont,' where 
the sentence is read to him, Schiller wished to have 
Alva in the background, muffled in a cloak, and 
enjoying the sight of Egmont's emotion. Thus Alva 
was to appear a man of boundless malice, and insatiate 
in vengeance. I protested, and prevented the appa- 
rition. However, he was a great and admirable man. 

" Every eight days became he other and greater than 
before ; each time that I saw him, he seemed to me 
to have gone forward in knowledge and judgment. 
His letters are the fairest mementoes of him which 
I possess, as they are also among the most excellent 
of his writings. His last letter I preserve, as a 
consecrated thing, among my treasures." He rose 
to get it. " See and read for yourself," said he, 
orivingr it to me. 

It was a very fair letter, yet written in a bold 
hand. It contained an opinion of Goethe's notes to 
" Rameau's Nephew," which give an idea of the state 
of French literature at that time, and which he had 
lent Schiller to look over. I read the letter aloud 
to Riemer. " You see," said Goethe, " how precise 

M 



134 



ECKERMANN. 



and to the point his judgment is, and that the hand- 
writing has nowhere any trace of weakness. This 
magnificent (prächtig) man went from us in the 
fulness of his powers." 

This letter bears date of 24th April, 1805. Schiller 
died the 9th May. We examined the letter together, 
and admired the clear style, and the beautiful writing. 
Goethe said many more affectionate words of his 
departed friend. It was nearly eleven when we took 
our leave. 

Thursday, 24th February. 
"If I were still superintendent of the theatre," 
said Goethe, this evening, " I would bring Byron's 
' Doge of Venice ' upon the stage. The piece is too 
long; but I would blot out nothing. I would only 
take the import of each scene, and try to express it 
more concisely. The piece would thus become more 
effective, without losing any of its peculiar beauties." 



I observed that Lord Byron, in his conversations 
with Medvvin, had said, that to write for the theatre 
was a difficult task, and one which is not rewarded by 
gratitude. " That," said Goethe, " depends on the 
tact of the poet. If he follow the direction which the 
taste and interest of the public has taken, he will 
have no cause to complain. Houwald did this with 
his Bilde, and won universal applause. But the 
tendency of Lord Byron's mind did not coincide with 
that of the public. His greatness doth not here avail 
the poet ; rather are those the greatest favorites who 
rise but little above the level of the public. 



CONVERSATIONS. 



135 



" No man ever possessed what I call inventive 
power in a higher dtgree than Lord Byron. His 
manner of loosing the dramatic knot always surpasses 
our expectations." 

" That," said I, " is what I feel about Shakspeare, 
when FalstaflT has entangled himself in such a net 
of falsehoods, and Shakspeare helps him out so much 
more dexterously than I had expected." 

Goethe laughed about Lord Byron's slavery to the 
unities ; that he who never could accommodate himself 
to the laws by which life is regulated, finally subjected 
himself to so stupid a law as that. 

" He understood the meaning of this law," said 
Goethe, " no better than the rest of the world. All 
such laws are intended to make a work more intelli- 
gible ; the three unities are only good as they subserve 
this end. If the observance of them hinders, rather 
than assists the apprehension of a work, it is foolish 
to observe them. Even the Greeks, who invented the 
rule, were not invariably governed by it. ' In the 
' Phaeton ' of Euripides, and other pieces, the scene 
changes, and it is obvious that they were not blindly 
obedient to their law when it interfered with an 
advantageous representation of the subject. The 
pieces of Shakspeare are planned without any regard 
to the unities of time and place ; but, as they produce 
a perfect illusion, none more than they, the Greeks 
would never have found fault with them. The French, 
by their superstitious adherence to the unities, have 
injured the illusion ; loosing the dramatic knot, not 
in dramatic wise, but by narration." 



136 



ECKERMANN. 



I called to mind the Feinde of Houwald. The 
author of this drama certainly *stood in his own light, 
when he, to preserve the unity of place, injured the 
illusion in the very first act, and generally sacrificed 
effect for a whimsey. I thought, too, of Goetz von 
Berlichingen, where no regard is paid to unity of time 
or place, but every thing being unfolded at once, and 
brought before our eyes, nothing can be more dramatic 
in its effect, or more easy to apprehend, than the piece. 
I thought that the unities of time and place should be 
preserved according to the intentions of the Greeks 
only when the author chooses a subject of limited 
range, where it may be done naturally ; but that a 
large subject asks more liberty, especially now that 
stage arrangements are so favorable to a change of 
scene. 

Goethe continued to talk of Lord Byron. " Though 
his disposition," said he, " was always leading him into 
the illimitable, yet the restraint of the three unities 
suited him very well. Had he known how to endure 
moral restraint as well ! That he could not, was his 
ruin : he himself avows it. 

" But he was much in the dark about himself. He 
lived impetuously for the dny, and neither knew nor 
thought what he was doing. Permitting every thing 
to himself, and excusing nothing in others, how could 
he but ruin himself, and make the whole world his 
foe? At the very beginning, he offended the most 
distinguished literary men by his ' English Bards and 
Scotch Reviewers.' To be permitted to live after this, 
he was obliged to go back a step. In his succeeding 
works, he continued the system of opposition and 



CONVERSATIONS. 



137 



fault-finding. Church and State were assailed. His 
reckless conduct, which drove him from England, 
would at last have driven him from Europe also. 
Every where it was too narrow for him. In the most 
perfect personal freedom, he felt himself confined. 
The world seemed to him a prison. His Grecian 
expedition was not made of free will ; his false posi- 
tion in the world obliged him to do something of that 
sort. 

" His renunciation of what was hereditary or pa- 
triotic not only injured his fortunes, though so distin- 
guished a person, but his revolutionary turn, and the 
constant mental agitation with which it was combined, 
never permitted his genius a fair development. And 
the perpetual negation and fault-finding of these other- 
wise excellent works is pernicious. Not only does 
the discontent of the writer infect the reader, but the 
end of all is negation ; that is to say, nothing. If I 
call bad bad, what do I win ? But if I call good bad, 
I lose much. He who would work aright must never 
rail, — must not trouble himself about what is already 
ill done, — but do well himself. Humanity finds its 
true joy, not in tearing to pieces, but in building anew. 

" Lord Byron is to be regarded as a man, as an 
Englishman, and as a great genius. His good qualities 
belong to the man, his bad to the Englishman and the 
peer ; his genius is incommensurable. 

" All Englishmen are, as such, without reflection ; 
distractions and party spirit will not permit them to 
unfold themselves in quiet. But they are great as 
practical men." 

M2 



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ECKERMANN. 



" But when he would create, he always succeeds ,' 
inspiration supplies the place of reflection. He never 
fails when he speaks out his own feelings as a man. 

" His genius is great; he was born great ; none has 
greater poetic power. But Shakspeare's individuality 
is superior. Byron felt this so much, that he talks but 
little of Shakspeare, though he knew great part of his 
works by heart. He would willingly have set him 
aside ; for Shakspeare's cheerfulness was in his way, 
and gave him a feeling of inferiority. He can talk 
of Pope, because he does not fear him. He praises 
him as much as he can, for he knows that Pope is a 
mere wall to him. 

" His high rank, as an English peer, was very 
injurious to Byron, for all genius is oppressed by 
the outer world ; — how much more by high rank 
and great possessions ! The middle station is most 
favorable to genius; you find the great artists and 
poets there. Byron's wild love of freedom would not 
have been half so dangerous to him in a lower station. 
But he could do what he pleased, and thus was led 
to entangle himself a thousand ways. No rank or 
name could awe him into respect. He spoke out 
whatever he felt, and so began the war with the 
world which ended not during his life. 

" It is astonishing how large a portion of his life 
an English noble passes in elopements and duels. 
Lord Byron says his father carried off three women. 
His practice of shooting at a mark shows ' his own 
daily expectation of duels. 

" He could not live alone. Therefore, notwith- 
standing all his caprices, he was very indulgent to his 



CONVERSATIONS. 



139 



associates. He read aloud one evening his beautiful 
poem on the death of Sir John Moore, and his noble 
friends could not tell what to make of it. He cared 
not, but quietly put it away again. Surely, as a poet, 
he showed himself a very lamb. Some men could not 
have refrained from an oath or two." 

Wednesday, 20th April. 

Goethe showed me to-night a letter from a young 
student, who begs the plan for the second part of 
" Faust," with the design of completing it himself. 
Without circumlocution, and in the most perfect 
good faith, this youth manifests his conviction that 
all other literary efforts of later years have been 
naught, and that only in his own can it be expected 
that literature shall bloom again. 

If I should meet young men who long to carry out 
Nnpoleon's plans of conquest, or one of those young 
Dilettanti in architecture who think they could com- 
plete the Cathedral of Cologne, I should not be more 
surprised and amused, than by this poetical amateur, 
who fancies he could write the second part of " Faust" 
because he admires the first. 

Indeed, I think the completion of the Cathedral 
of Cologne a more practicable enterprise than that 
of continuing " Faust" on Goethe's plan. For the 
one is tangible, and capable of mathematical measure- 
ment ; but what line or measure could avail for a work 
in which the plan depends on spiritual discernment, 
the materials must be furnished from so long and 
rich a life, and the execution requires the tact and 
practice of a master 1 



140 



ECKERMANN. 



He who esteems such a work easy, shows thereby 
the ordinary texture of an intellect which cannot 
divine the difficulties which attend every noble achieve- 
ment, and probably would be unequal to supply the 
gap of a few lines, if Goethe had left one which 
required them. I will not in this place inquire why 
it is that the young men of our day suppose them- 
selves endowed at their birth with powers which have 
hitherto required the experiences and labor of many 
years to bring them to light, but shall content myself 
with observing, that this presumptuousness, now so 
common in Germany, which would stride so hastily 
over the steps of needful culture, affords little hope 
of our being enriched with new masterpieces. 

" Our misfortune is," said Goethe, " that in the 
state, nobody can enjoy life in peace, because every 
body must needs govern ; and in art, that nobody 
is willing to enjoy what has been produced without 
immediately trying to reproduce. No poet can be 
permitted to help himself in a way of his own, unless 
others can do the same as he does. There is, besides, 
no one earnest mind which can remember the All, 
no willingness to be subordinate to a grand design ; 
but each one tries to play his own part, so that he 
individually may be observed. We see this at our 
concerts, where the modern virtuosos, instead of 
selecting their pieces with a view to giving the 
audience the highest musical enjoyment, bring forward 
only those in which they can exact most admiration. 
Every where you find these people striving to attract 
attention to their paltry individualities, no where those 



CONVERSATIONS. 



141 



who care more for the thing they are doing than for 
their own celebrity. 

" Hence it is that these men become such pitiful 
botchers, without knowing it. As children, as youths, 
they keep scribbling, and, when manhood has brought 
some insight of the true nature of excellence, they 
look back in despair on the years they have wasted. 

" But many never do get such insight, and keep 
on doing thinors by halves, content, through life, with 
this mutilated offspring. 

" Certainly, if they could early enough be made 
to feel how full the world is already of excellent 
productions, and how much must be done to produce 
any thing worthy of being placed beside what has 
already been produced, — of a hundred youths who are 
now pouring forth their poems to the public, scarce 
one would have felt courage to look up to such an 
aim. 

" Many young painters would have dropped their 
pencils at once, if they could have felt what an 
assemblage of rare qualifications is required to con- 
stitute a Raphael." 

The conversation turned upon false tendencies in 
general, and Goethe continued — 

" My tendency to practise painting was a false one, 
for there was in me no talent for the art worth 
developing. A delicate sensibility to the landscape 
which surrounded me I did possess by nature, and, 
consequently, my first attempts looked promising. 
The journey to Italy took away all my pleasure in 
practice; the appearance of talent, which sympathy 
with the object had given, disappeared ; a wider com- 



142 



ECKERMANN. 



prehension took its place; but, as neither technical 
nor aesthetic talents were unfolded, my efforts melted 
away into nothing at last. 

"It is justly felt, and said, that the complete un- 
folding of all human powers is the proper aim of man. 
But the individual is not born for this ; he must 
content himself with perfecting such powers as he 
is peculiarly endowed with, only seeking to obtain 
the Idea which would result from the aggregate of 
all these individual forces." 

I thought of that passage in Wilhelm Meister, in 
which it is said that humanity is the sum of all men 
taken together, and each is only so far worthy of 
esteem as he knows how to appreciate all. 

I thought, too, of Jarno's words, in the Wander- 
jahre, where he advises each man to learn some 
mechanic art, and styles that man the fortunate who 
understands that this is the time proper to one-sided- 
ness, and, in that knowledge, keeps at work for 
himself and others. 

Then comes the question, What occupation shall 
a man choose, in which he may neither overstep his 
proper limits, nor do too little ? 

He whose business it is to overlook many depart- 
ments, to judge, to guide others, has the best oppor- 
tunity for an insight into many. Thus a prince, 
or he who would be a statesman, cannot aim too 
much at such insight ; for many-sidedness is indis- 
pensable to him. 

The poet, too, should have manifold knowledge, 
for his subject is the world. 

But, as the poet need be neither a painter nor an 



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actor, though he partly does in words what they do 
in their different vocations, so should we every way 
separate insight into a thing from practical power 
to use it. Each art for its practice requires a life. 

Thus Goethe, while striving for insight to many 
things, has contented himself with doing well one 
thing, i. e. writing the German language, {Deutsch zu 
schreiben.) That his materials are of various nature, 
affects not his rule as to practice. 

General culture of the tastes is not to be confounded 
with practical ability ia details. The poet must use 
every means to cultivate his eye. And, if Goethe's 
attempts at drawing and painting failed of their object, 
they were of use in cultivating him as a poet. 

"The objectivity of my poetry," said he, "may be 
attributed to this discipline of eye ; and I highly 
prize the knowledge which I have attained in this 
way. 

" But we must take care not to place too far off even 
the limits of our culture. 

" The natural philosopher is, perhaps, in most 
danger of this, because general harmonious culture 
of the faculties is so necessary to the adequate obser- 
vation of nature. 

" But, on the other hand, let each man, as soon as 
he distinctly ascertains what he must know and do in 
his own department, guard himself against one-sided- 
ness and narrow views. 

" A poet, who writes for the stage, must understand 
its capabilities. The opera-composers must have some 
understanding of poetry, lest they waste their time and 



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strength in attempting what, from the nature of things, 
cannot be accomplished. 

" Von Weber, for instance, must see at once, that 
the Euryanthe is not a fit subject for him. The 
painter must know what subjects are fit for him, and 
what transcend the limits of Art. 

" But, when all is said, the great art is judiciously 
to limit and isolate one's self." 

Accordingly, he has, ever since I have been with 
him, been constantly seeking to guard me against 
distractions, even those which had valuable objects. 
If I showed an inclination to penetrate the secrets 
of science, he would advise me to let it alone, and 
confine myself to poetry for the present. If I wished 
to read a book which he thought had no bearing on 
my present pursuits, he would advise me to let it alone, 
and concentrate my attention as much as possible on 
my own vocation. 

" I myself," said he, one day, " have spent too much 
time on things which had no relation to my proper 
department. When I remember what Lopez de Vega 
accomplished, the list of my poetical productions 
seems very scanty. I should have followed my own 
vocation with more earnestness and constancy." 

" If I had not busied myself so much with stones," 
said he, another time, " but spent my time on some- 
thing better, I might have won the finest ornament 
of diamonds." 

And he highly esteems and praises his friend Meyer 
for having devoted his life exclusively to the study 
of Art, and thus having obtained the finest insight 
into his own department. 



CONVERSATIONS. 



145 



" Though I have spent," said he, " half my life in 
the contemplation and study of works of art, I am 
not on a par with Meyer. I never venture to show 
him a new picture, till I think I have got all I can 
from it. When I have studied it till I think I am 
fully acquainted both with its beauties and defects, 
I show it to Meyer, who fails not to look more sharply 
into the matter, and give me many new lights. I am 
ever anew convinced how much is needed to be great 
in any department. In Meyer lies an insight into art, 
such as thousands of years may ripen." 

Why, then, it may be asked, if Goethe be persuaded 
that one man can only do one thing well, has he, 
beyond all men, turned his activity into various di- 
rections 1 

I answer, that, if Goethe were now coming upon 
the stage, and found the literary and scientific culture 
of this country at the point which it has now, and 
in good measure through him, attained, he certainly 
would not turn his attention into such various direc- 
tions, but concentrate it in one. 

Not only his nature, but the needs of his time, 
led him to seek and speak on so many subjects. 

A large inheritance of error and incompleteness 
fell to his share, and called for good management on 
many sides. 

If the Newtonian theory had not seemed to him 
highly pernicious to the human mind, he would surely 
never have devoted so many years' labor to such a 
work as his Farbenlehre. It was his love of truth, 
and hatred of error, which forced him to make his 
pure light shine into this darkness. 

N 



146 



ECKERMANN. 



The same may be said of that model for the 
scientific treatment of a subject, for which we are 
so greatly indebted to him — the "Metamorphosis of 
Plants." It is an effort he would never have made, 
if he had seen any of his contemporaries on the 
way to make it unnecessary. And I doubt whether 
he would have written " Wilhelm Meister," if his 
country had been possessed of any such work. In 
that case he might probably have devoted himself to 
the drama. What he might then have accomplished, 
we cannot know; but, I think, no intelligent man, 
who looks at all sides of the question, will regret 
that he went the way his Creator was pleased to 
call him. 

Thursday, ]2th May. 
Goethe spoke with great enthusiasm of Menander. 
" I love him," said he, " next to Sophocles. He is 
every where noble, genuine, sublime, and cheerful ; 
his grace and sweetness are unequalled. It is greatly 
to be lamented that we have so little of his ; but 
that little is invaluable, gifted men may learn so much 
from it. 

" The great point is, that he from whom we would 
learn should be congenial with our nature. Now, 
Calderon, great as he is, and much as I admire him, 
could exert no influence over me for good or for ill. 
But he would have been dangerous to Schiller; he 
would have led him astray ; it is fortunate for Schiller 
that Calderon was not generally known in Germany 
till after his time. Calderon is infinitely great in 
whatever is technical or theatrical ; Schiller, on the 



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147 



contrary, far more manly, profound, and dignified, in 
his design. It would have been a pity if he had lost 
something of his peculiar greatness, without attaining 
what belonged to Calderon." 

We spoke of Moliere. " Moliere," said Goethe, 
" is so great, that he astonishes me anew every time 
I read him. He is a man by himself — his pieces 
border on tragedy — they are apprehensive — no one 
dares to imitate them. His 1 Miser,' where all the 
piety of natural relations is outraged by father and 
son, is grand, and in a high sense tragic. But when, 
in the German paraphrase, the son is changed into a 
relation, the whole is weakened, and loses its signifi- 
cance. They feared to show the vice as hideous as 
he did ; but what is there, or any where, tragic, except 
what is intolerable 1 

" I read some pieces of Moliere's every year, just 
as I look often at engravings after the works of the 
great Italian masters. For we little men are not able 
to retain in the mind the idea of such greatness ; we 
must return from time to time, and renew the im- 
pression from the work. 

" People are always talking about originality ; but 
what do they mean? As soon as we are born, the 
world begins to work upon us, and keeps on to the 
end. What can we call ours, except energy, strength, 
will 1 If I could give an account of what I owe to 
great predecessors and contemporaries, there would 
be but a small remainder. 

" However, the time of life in which we are sub- 
jected to a new and important influence, makes great 
difference in our reception of it. That Lessing, 



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ECKERMANN. 



Winckelmann, and Kant, were born before me, so 
that the two first acted upon my youth, and the latter 
on my riper years, — this circumstance had a great 
deal to do with my progress. That Schiller was so 
much younger than I, and engaged in his most 
earnest strivings, just as I began to be weary of the 
world, at the same time that the brothers von Hum- 
boldt and Schlegel were beginning their career under 
my eye, — these circumstances also have great signifi- 
cance, and from them I have derived innumerable 
advantages." 

The conversation then turned on the influence 
which he had exerted over others. I mentioned 
Burger, inquiring whether his strong natural tendency 
had been at all modified by the influence of Goethe. 

" Bürger," said Goethe, " had affinity with me in 
the nature of his genius; but the tree of his moral 
culture had its root in a wholly different soil, and 
sprung up in a wholly different direction. Each 
man proceeds as he began, in the ascending line of his 
culture. A man who, in his thirtieth year, could 
write such a poem as Frau Schnips, had obviously 
taken a path which must lead him far from mine. 
Also had he, by his really fine talents, won for 
himself a public which he perfectly satisfied ; and he 
had no need of troubling himself about a contempo- 
rary who was at work in quite another region. 

M Every where, men learn only from men and things 
which they love. However the growing minds of the 
present day may be disposed towards me, scarce one 
man, of any weight, was, for a long while, perfectly 
satisfied with me. Even with Werther, people found 



CONVERSATIONS. 



149 



so much fault, that, if I had erased every passage with 
which some one had been displeased, there would not 
have been a single line left. But I never have troubled 
myself about that ; such subjective judgments of indi- 
viduals are at last rectified by the majority. He who 
does not expect a million readers had best never write 
a line. 

" The public have been quarrelling these twenty 
years, as to which is the greatest — Schiller or I; they 
ought to rejoice that they know two men worth quar- 
relling about." 

Saturday, 11th June. 

Goethe talked much at dinner of Major Parry's 
book upon Lord Byron. He gave it unqualified 
praise, and remarked that Lord Byron here appears 
far more complete a character, and more clear in 
his account of himself and his plans, than in any 
book which has been written about him. 

" Major Parry," said he, " must be a noble and 
intelligent man, so fully to have conceived, and so 
clearly to have represented, the character of his friend. 
One passage in his book pleases me particularly ; it is 
worthy of an old Greek — of a Plutarch. ' This 
noble lord,' says Parry, * was destitute of all the 
virtues which adorn civil life ; neither birth, education, 
nor mode of life, assisted him in their attainment, 
while a large portion of his judges are from the 
middle class, and blame him for wanting such virtues 
as they most value in themselves. The good people 
do not feel that he possessed, for his high station, 
qualities of whose nature and value they can form no 

N3 



150 



ECKERMANN. 



idea.' How do you like that? Do you think any 
thing so good is to be heard every day ? " 

I replied that I was rejoiced to see expressed a view 
which must discomfit all little men, who are busied 
in blaming and pulling down one whose place is 
above them. 

We then spoke of subjects of national history in 
relation to poetry, inquiring how far the history of one 
nation may be more favorable to the poet than another. 

" Let the poet," said Goethe, " seize the Particular, 
and, if he uses it well, he cannot fail therein to 
represent the Universal. The English history is ex- 
cellent for poetry ; it has so healthy, and, therefore, 
so universal an expression, in its details, and always 
ideas that must be repeated. The French history, 
on the other hand, affords no material for poetry, as 
it represents an era that cannot come again. Thus 
the literature of the French, in so far as it is founded 
on their history, stands as something of no universal 
interest, and which must grow old with its time. 

" The present era of French literature cannot be 
judged fairly. The German influence causes such 
a fermentation there, that we probably shall not know 
the result these twenty years." 

We then talked of the aesthetic school, who labor 
so hard to express the nature of poetry and the poet 
in abstract definitions, without ever arriving at any 
clear resuli 

"What need of these laborious definitions?" said 
Goethe. " Lively feeling of a situation, and power 
to express it, constitute the poet." 



CONVERSATIONS. 



151 



Wednesday, 15th October. 

I found Goethe in a very elevated mood this evening, 
and had the pleasure of hearing from him many 
significant remarks. We talked over the state of the 
newest literature, and he said — 

II Deficiency of character in individual writers and 
seekers is the source of all the evils of our newest 
literature. 

" Especially in criticism, the world suffers from this, 
while either falsehoods circulate as verities, or a petty 
and pitiful truth robs us of something great, which 
would be far better. 

" Till lately, the world believed in the heroism of a 
Lucretia, — of a Mucius Scaevola, — and suffered itself, 
by this belief, to be warmed and inspired. But now 
comes your historical critic, and says no such persons 
ever lived, — all this is mere fiction — the result of the 
great thoughts of the Romans. And if it be so, what 
care we for so pitiful a truth ? If the Romans had the 
greatness to invent such stories, shall we not, at least, 
have the greatness to believe them ? 

"Till lately, I had pleased myself with a noble 
passage in the thirteenth century, when the Emperor 
Frederic the Second was at variance with the Pope, 
and the north of Germany was open to attacks from 
every side. Asiatic hordes had pressed as far as 
Silesia, when the Duke von Liegnitz met and terrified 
them by one great defeat. They turned to Moravia, 
and were again defeated by Count Sternberg. These 
valiant men had long been living in my heart as the 
saviors of Germany. But now comes your historical 
critic, and says these heroes sacrificed themselves 



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ECKERMANN. 



quite uselessly — the barbarians were already recalled, 
and must have returned if they had done nothing. 
So is the narrative robbed of all its noble patriotic 
beauty, and become wholly detestable to my thoughts." 

He then spoke of another class of seekers and 
literary men. 

" I could never," said he, " have fully comprehended 
how paltry men are, and how little they care for high 
aims, if I had not had such opportunity to test them 
in the course of my scientific researches. Now, I saw 
that most men only care for science in so far as they 
can get a living by it, and that they are ready to 
worship any error which they find profitable for this 
object. 

" In belles lettres, it is no better. There, high aims, 
genuine love for the true and fair, and desire for 
diffusing it, are equally wanting. One man cherishes 
and tolerates another, because he is by him cherished 
and tolerated in return. True greatness is hateful 
to them ; they would fain shape the world so that 
only such as they could find a place in it. Such are 
the masses; and prominent individuals are little 
better. 

" 's great talents and extensive learning 

might have conferred the greatest benefits on his 
country. But his want of character has prevented 
his effecting such objects, or winning our esteem. 

" We want a man like Lessing. For how was he 
great, except in character, in his firmness, which 
could not be moved 1 There are many men as wise, 
of as extensive culture ; but where shall we find 
another such character? 



CONVERSATIONS. 



153 



" Many are full of intellect and knowledge, but they 
are also full of vanity; and, in their desire to shine 
before the short-sighted multitude, they forget all 
shame, all delicacy — nothing is sacred to them. 

" Madame de Genlis was perfectly right to declaim 
as she did against the bold irreverence of Voltaire. 
What has the world been profited by all his intellect, 
since it affords a foundation for nothing? Indeed, 
what has it not lost, by what, has confused men, and 
robbed them of their foothold ? 

" What know we at last, and how far can we go 
with all our fine wit ? 

" Man is not born to solve the problem of the 
universe, but to find out with what it has to do, and 
then restrain himself within the limits of his power 
of comprehension. 

" He cannot measure the transactions of the uni- 
verse ; neither his powers nor his point of view justify 
him in such an ambition. The reason of man and the 
reason of God are very different things. 

" If you grant God omniscience, man cannot be 
free; if the Divinity knows how I shall act, I must 
act so. I touch upon this merely as an illustration 
of how little we can know, and how foolish it is to 
meddle with divine mysteries. 

" Also, we are not obliged to utter our higher 
maxims, except when they can benefit the world. 
Let us keep them within ourselves, when they are 
not likely to do good without ; they will not fail to 
diffuse over our actions the mild radiance of a hidden 
sun." 



154 



ECK ERMANN. 



Sunday, 25th December. 

I found Goethe alone this evening, and passed with 
him some delightful hours. 

" My mind," said he, " has, of late, been burdened 
by many things. So much good has been flowing in 
to me on all sides, that the mere ceremony of return- 
ing thanks has occupied all my time, and prevented 
me from having any real life. The privileges for the 
publication of my works have been gradually coming 
from the Court ; and as the favors came from different 
individuals, I was obliged to express my sense of them 
to each separately. Then came the proposals of 
innumerable booksellers, all of which must be con- 
sidered, acted upon, and answered. Then my Jubilee 
has brought me such thousand-fold attentions and 
benefits, that I have not yet got through with my 
letters of acknowledgment. And I cannot be content 
with hollow generalities, but am desirous to say some- 
thing distinct and appropriate to each one. But now 
I am almost free, and begin to be again disposed for 
conversation. 

" I have, of late, made an observation, which I will 
impart to you. 

" Every thing we do has its results. But the right 
and prudent does not always lead to good, or contrary 
measures to bad ; frequently the reverse takes place. 
Some time since, I made a mistake in one of these 
transactions with booksellers, and was disturbed that 
I had done so. But, as circumstances have turned 
out, it would have been very unfortunate if I had not 
made that very mistake. Such instances occur fre- 
quently in life, and it is the observation of them 



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which enables men of the world to go to work with 
such freedom and boldness." 

I was struck by this remark, which was new to me. 

I then turned the conversation on his own works, 
and we came upon the elegy " Alexis and Dora." 

" Men blame," said Goethe, " the strong, passionate 
close of this poem, and would rather the elegy should 
end gently and peacefully, without that outbreak 
of jealousy ; but I cannot agree with such an opinion. 
Jealousy is so manifestly an ingredient of the affair, 
that the poem would be incomplete if it were not 
introduced at all. I myself knew a youth who, in the 
midst of his most impassioned love for an easily-won 
maiden, cried out, ' But would she not receive another 
man as readily as me?' " 

I agreed entirely with Goethe, and mentioned the 
skill with which, in this poem, all is so painted, 
though with but few strokes, and in little room, that 
we think we see the life and domestic environment 
of the persons. " I should think it must be a page 
from actual experience," said I. 

" I am glad it seems so to you," said Goethe. " Few 
men have any taste for faithful painting of reality ; 
they much prefer strange countries and circumstances, 
in which the fancy may exercise itself unrestrained. 

" There are others, however, who cling too closely to 
reality, and, wholly wanting the poetic spirit, are severe 
indeed in their requisitions. For instance, in this very 
poem, some would have had me give Alexis a servant 
to carry his bundle, and never dreamt that all that was 
poetic and idyllic in the situation would have been 
destroyed by such an arrangement." 



156 



ECKERMANN- 



We talked then of "Wilhelm Meister." " There 
are odd critics in this world," said Goethe ; " they 
blamed me for letting the hero of this romance live so 
much in bad company ; but I considered this so called 
bad company, as a vase, in which I could put every 
thing good I had to say, and I won thereby a poetical 
and manifold body for my • work. Had I delineated the 
so called good society by means of the same, nobody 
would have read my book. 

" In the seemingly mean details of ' Wilheim 
Meister,' lies always at bottom a high meaning, which 
he who has eye, knowledge of the world, and power 
of comprehension to infer the great from the little, will 
detect; to others, let it suffice to receive the picture 
of life as real life." 

Goethe then showed me a very interesting English 
work, which illustrated all Shakspeare, by engravings. 
Each leaf embraced, in six small designs, one piece. 
Verses were written beneath, which recalled the leading 
ideas and most interesting situations of each work. 
Thus all these immortal dramas were brought before 
the eye, as if by processions of marks. 

"It is even terrifying," said Goethe, "to look 
through this book. It makes me feel the infinite 
wealth and grandeur of Shakspeare. There is nothing 
in human life to which he has not given form and 
voice ; and all with what ease and freedom ! 

" But it is in vain to talk about Shakspeare ; we can 
never say any thing adequate. I have touched upon 
the subject in my * Wilheim Meister,' but could do 
little. He is not a theatre poet; he never thought 
of the stage; it was far too narrow for his great 



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intellect ; truly, the whole visible world was too 
narrow. 

" He is even too rich and powerful. Let no mind, 
which would produce any thing, venture on reading 
more than one of his dramas yearly. I did well to 
set him wholly aside when writing « Goetz ' and 
'Egmont,' and Byron did well in cherishing no 
admiration for him, and keeping in another way. 
Calderon and he have been the ruin of many an 
excellent German. 

" Shakspeare offers us golden apples in silver dishes. 
We get the silver dishes by studying his works ; but, 
unfortunately, we have nothing better than potatoes to 
put into them." 

I laughed, and was delighted with this admirable 
illustration. 

Goethe showed me a letter from Zelter, describing 
a representation of Macbeth at the theatre in Berlin, 
where the music did not correspond with the grand 
spirit and character of the piece. Goethe's reading 
gave full effect to Zelter's varied expression, and he 
often paused, to admire, with me, some striking 
passage. 

" ' Macbeth/ said he, " is Shakspeare's best acting 
play, the one in which he shows most understanding 
of stage effect. But would you see his intellect 
unfettered, read 1 Troilus and Cressida,' and see 
how he uses the materials of the Iliad in his fashion." 

We talked of Byron, of the disadvantage to which 
he appears, when placed beside the innocent cheerful- 
ness of Shakspeare, and of the lavish and generally not 
unjust blame, which his manifold works of negation 

o 



\ 



158 ECKERMANN. 

had attracted. "Could he," said Goethe, "have got 
rid, in Parliament, of all the opposition that was in 
him, he would have stood much higher as a poet ; but, 
as he scarcely had a chance to speak in Parliament, 
all which he had in his heart against his nation was 
repressed, and he had no outlet for it except his poems. 
Great part of his works of negation might, I think, be 
fitly designated as suppressed parliamentary speeches." 

We talked of a poet who has lately risen up in 
Germany, who has become celebrated in a short time, 
but whose tendency to negation is indefensible. 
"Undoubtedly," said Goethe, "he possesses many 
shining qualities, but then he is wanting in — Love. 
He loves his readers and his fellow-poets no better 
than himself, so that we are constantly tempted to 
address him in the words of the apostle — ' Though I 
speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have 
not charity, I am become as sounding brass and a 
tinkling cymbal.' 

" I have lately read one of his poems, and his genius 
is not to be denied ; but without Love he can never 
make himself all he might be. He will be feared, and 
be the idol of those who would gladly distinguish 
themselves by denying as much as he does, if they had 
but his genius." 

Sunday evening, 29th January, 1826. 
The most celebrated German improvisatore, Dr. 
Wolff, of Hamburg, has been here several days, and 
has given public exhibitions of his rare talent. On 
Friday evening, he gave us a very brilliant exhibition 
before the Court of Weimar, and a numerous audi- 



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ence ; that same day he received an invitation to dine 
with Goethe. 

I talked with him after he had improvised before 
Goethe. He was much delighted, and declared that 
this hour would make an epoch in his life ; for Goethe, 
in a few words, had opened to him a wholly new path, 
and had, in his criticisms, hit the right nail on the 
head. 

This evening, as I was at Goethe's, the conversation 
turned immediately on Wolff. "He congratulates 
himself greatly," said I, " on the good advice your 
excellency has given him." 

" I was perfectly free with him," said Goethe, " and 
if my words have made such an impression on him, 
that is a very good sign. His talents are indubitable ; 
but he has the general sickness of the day — -sub- 
jectivity — and I would fain heal him. I gave him 
this task to try him : — * Paint for me,' said I, 'your 
return to Hamburg.' He began immediately to pour 
out melodious verses. I could not but admire his 
facility, yet I could not praise him ; for he painted no 
return to Hamburg, but merely those emotions which 
any one might experience on returning to his parents, 
relations, and friends; and his poem no more deserved 
the name of return to Hamburg, than to Merseburg or 
Jena. Yet, what an individual, peculiar city is Ham- 
burg ! and what a rich field it would have offered him 
for striking pictures, if he had known or ventured 
to take hold of the subject properly ! " 

I remarked that this subjective tendency was the 
fault of the public, which applauds nothing so much 
as sentimentality. 



160 



ECKERMANN. 



"Perhaps so," said Goethe; "yet is the public 
well pleased if you offer something better. I am 
certain, if a man of such genius as Wolff could 
improvise faithful sketches of real life in great cities, 
such as Rome, Naples, Vienna, Hamburg, or London, 
so that they might believe they saw with their own 
eyes, his hearers would be enchanted. I am sure he 
might break through to the objective, for he is not 
without imagination ; but, if he does not soon take the 
right path, it will be too late." 

" That," said I, " will not be easy, since it demands 
entire regeneration of his modes of thought. Even 
if he succeeds, he must, for some time, stop producing, 
and will require long practice to make the objective 
style as natural as the present." 

" Yet," said Goethe, " let him take courage, and 
venture. It is in such matters as in going to bathe — 
disregard the first chill, and a new element is yours. 
Must not the singer find new tones, not natural to his 
throat, if he would do justice to his art ? Just so with 
the poet ; — he deserves not the name when he only 
speaks out those few subjective feelings which are his 
as an individual. Only when he can appropriate and 
tell the story of the world is he a poet ; and there he 
is inexhaustible, and can be always new, while your 
subjective writer has soon talked out his limited 
knowledge, and is ruined by mannerism. We are 
bid to study the ancients ; yet what does that avail us, 
if it does not teach us to study the real world, and 
reproduce that? — for there was the source of the 
power of the ancients." 

He walked to and fro a few minutes, while I re- 



CONVERSATIONS. 



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mained seated at the table, as he likes to have me. 
Then, after standing a moment at the stove, he came 
to me, his finger on his lips, and said, 

" I will now tell you something, of which I think 
you will find frequent confirmation in your experience. 
When eras are on the decline, all tendencies are 
subjective ; but, on the other hand, when matters are 
ripening for a new epoch, all tendencies are objective. 
Our present time is retrograde, therefore subjective; 
we see this not more clearly in poetry than in painting, 
and other ways. Each manly effort, on the contrary, 
turns its force from the inward to the outward world, 
In important eras, those who have striven and acted 
most manfully were all objective in their nature." 

These remarks led to a most interesting conversation 
upon the great deeds of the fifteenth and sixteenth 
centuries. 

The conversation now turned upon the theatre, and 
the weak, sentimental, gloomy productions which now 
disgrace it. 

" Moliere is my strength and consolation at present," 
said I; "I have been translating his Avare, and am 
now busy with his Medicin malgre lui. Moliere is 
indeed a great, a genuine man." 

" Yes," said Goethe, "a genuine man; that is 
indeed his proper praise. There is nothing borrowed 
or factitious in him. He ruled the manners of his 
day, while our Iffland and Kotzebue are ruled by 
theirs, and every way limited and confined. Moliere 
chastised men by painting them just as they were." 

" What would I not give," said I, " to see his 
dramas properly acted ! Yet are such things much 

OS 



162 



ECKERMANN. 



too strong and natural for our public. Is not this 
over-refinement to be attributed to the so called ideal 
literature of certain authors?" 

" No," said Goethe, " it has its source in society 
itself. Now, we have young girls at the theatre ; when 
Moliere wrote, nobody came to see his pieces but 
men and women, who know things as they are. In 
his day, young girls were in their proper place, the 
cloister ; but, since they have once got the entree, 
we must needs be discreet for their sake; and one 
who, like me, does not like such weak dramas, had 
best stay away, as I do. I ceased to feel really in- 
terested in the theatre when I ceased to be able to 
improve their acting. It was my delight to bring 
dramatic arrangements to their perfection among us, 
and when a piece was given, I sympathized less with 
it than with the actors. I noted the faults of each ; 
I sent a written account of them to the manager, and 
was sure I should not see them again. Now, if I were 
present, I must endure faults and defects without any 
hope of reforming them. And so about the reading 
of pieces. Why must the young German poets be 
eternally sending me tragedies ? Formerly, I con- 
sented to read them, to see whether they were fit to 
play. What have I to do now with the works of these 
young people ? I get nothing by reading things so 
badly done, and I can do no good when they have 
already finished. If they would send one, instead 
of printed plays, plans for plays, it might be worth 
my while to say, ' Do this,' or 1 Don't do that,' and 
then my trouble might not be wholly vain. The chief 
difficulty is in this, — that poetic culture is so general 



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in Germany that nobody now ever makes a bad verse. 
These young poets who send me their works, are 
not inferior to their predecessors, and, since you can 
praise them so highly, they cannot understand why 
you will not praise them more. Yet how can we 
praise them, when there is so much talent just of that 
degree in the market, and they bring us what we do 
not need, while so many useful things remain undone ? 
Were there so much as one who towered above the 
rest, it would be well, for the world can be served 
only by what is extraordinary. 

Thursday, 16th February, 1826. 
I went, at seven this evening, to Goethe. I sat down 
by the table, and told him that yesterday I had seen, 
at the inn, the Duke of Wellington, who was passing 
through, on his way to St. Petersburg. " Indeed ! " said 
Goethe; "tell me all about it. Does he look like his 
portrait? " 

" Yes," said I ; " but his face is better. It is very 
distinguished, and when you have once looked at 
himself, all the portraits are nought. It is one 
of those faces, which, once seen, are never forgotten. 
His brown eyes are very clear and brilliant ; his look 
is impressive ; his mouth speaks, even when it is shut ; 
he looks a man who has had many thoughts, and who 
has lived through the greatest deeds, who now can 
look upon the world with serene satisfaction, for he 
has vanquished all hostile powers. He seemed to me 
as hard and keen as a Damascus blade. He looks 
near fifty, upright, of a good mien, but rather thin. 
I saw him get into his carriage : his manner, as he 



I 



164 ECKERMANN. 

passed througn the crowd assembled at the door, and 
slightly touched his hat in reply to their salutations, 
was unusually cordial." Goethe listened with visible 
interest. "You are a gainer," said he; "you have 
seen a hero." I lamented that I had never seen 
Napoleon. 

" Truly," said Goethe, " that also was worth the 
trouble. He looked, as he was, the compendium 
of a world." 

I had brought with me for Goethe a poem, of which 
I had spoken to him some evenings before — one of his 
own, written so long since that he has quite forgotten 
it. It was printed in a Frankfort periodical, of the 
year 1776. An old servant of Goethe brought it to 
Weimar, and by this means it had fallen into my 
hands. Undoubtedly it is the earliest known poem 
of his. The subject was the " Descent of Christ into 
Hell ; " and it was remarkable to observe the readiness 
of the young composer with his religious images. The 
design of the poem might have suited Klopstock ; but 
its execution was wholly unlike any thing of his. It 
was stronger, freer, more graceful, had greater energy 
and better arrangement. The glowing style recalled 
his youth, full of impetuosity and power. It was 
longer than the material warranted. 

As soon as Goethe saw the yellow, worn-out paper, 
he remembered his poem. " Perhaps," said he, 
" Fraulein von Klettenberg induced me to write it, 
for I see by the heading that it was written by request, 
and I know not any other friend likely to have given 
me such a subject. I was very poor in materials then, 
and was rejoiced when I could get any thing fit to 



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sing. A day or two ago, a poem of that period came 
before my eye, which I wrote in the English language, 
in which I complained of the dearth of poetic subjects. 
We Germans are ill off in that respect; our old 
national poems lie too remote, and the later want 
general interest, because we have no general govern- 
ment. Klopstock tried Arminius, but all that lies too 
far off ; nobody feels any connection with it, or knows 
what he shall do with it. Accordingly, Klopstock's 
work has never been popular, or produced any valuable 
results. I made a happy hit with my Goetz von 
Berlichingen; that was bone of my bone, and flesh 
of my flesh, and writing it was delightful. 

" For Werther and Faust I was obliged to 
draw upon my own bosom ; I found but a small part 
ready to my hand. I made but once devils and 
witches, and I was glad when I h.ad consumed my 
northern inheritance, and turned to the tables of the 
Greeks. Had I earlier known how many excellent 
things have been in existence, for hundreds and 
thousands of years, I should have written no line ; 
I should have had enough else to do." 

26th March, 1826. 
Goethe was in one of his pleasantest moods. He 
had received something he highly valued, Lord Byron's 
manuscript of the dedication to his " Sardanapalus." 
He showed it to us after dinner, at the same time 
teasing his daughter to give him back Byron's letter 
from Genoa. " You see, my dear child," said he, 
" I have now every thing collected which relates to my 
connection with Byron ; and now I am enriched with 



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this valuable paper, nothing is wanting but that letter." 
But the lovely admirer of Byron would not be per- 
suaded to restore the letter. " You gave it to me 
once, my father," said she, " and I shall not part 
with it ; and if you wish, as is fit, that like should 
be with like, you had better give me the other 
manuscripts, and I will keep them together." This 
Goethe positively refused, and they continued the 
playful contention for some time. 

After he had risen from table, and the ladies had 
gone out, Goethe brought from his work-room a red 
portfolio, which he took to the window, and showed 
me its contents. " Here," said he, " I have every 
thing together which relates to my connection with 
Lord Byron. Here is his letter from Leghorn ; here 
a copy of his dedication, my own poem, and what I 
wrote for ' Medwin's Conversations ; ' now, I only 
need the letter from Genoa, and she will not let me 
have it." 

Goethe had been interested to-day more particularly 
about Byron by a letter from England. His mind 
was just now full of him, and he said a thousand 
interesting things about his works, and the character 
of his genius. 

" The English," said he, among other things, " may 
think of Byron as they please ; they certainly have no 
poet like him. He is different from the others, and, 
in many respects, greater." 

Monday, 15th May. 
He talked about St. Schutze, and he spoke of him 
with much partiality. " When I was ill a few weeks 



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since," said he, " I took great pleasure in reading his 
Heiteren Stunden. If Schutze had lived in England, 
he would have made an epoch ; his gift both of ob- 
serving and depicting was so distinguished, that he 
needed nothing but the sight of life on a larger 
scale." 

Thursday, 1st June. 
Goethe spoke of the " Globe." " The contributors," 
said he, " are men of the world, cheerful, clear in 
their views, bold to the last degree. They find fault 
in the most polished manner ; — very unlike our 
German literati, who always think they must hate 
those who differ from them in opinion. I consider 
the ' Globe ' as one of our most interesting periodicals, 
and, indeed, could not do without it." 

Wednesday, 26th July. 

This evening, I had the pleasure of hearing Goethe 
talk at length about the theatre. 

I told him that one of my friends intended to pre- 
pare for the stage Lord Byron's " Two Foscari." 
Goethe doubted his success. 

"He makes a common mistake," he said. "When 
a piece produces a deep impression on us in reading, 
we think it will do the same on the stage; but, in 
reality, no piece that is not originally, by the intent 
and discretion of the poet, written for acting, ever 
succeeds on the stage. I have given myself infinite 
trouble with my Goetz von Bcrlichingen, yet it never 
will be fit for acting. In fact, it is too long, and I 
ought to divide it into two parts, regarding the first 



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as an introduction merely. The first part snould 
be given once only, as an introduction to the other, 
and then the second could be played repeatedly. 'Tis 
the same with Wallenstein ; ' The Picolomini ' does 
not bear repetition, but 1 Wallenstein's Death ' was 
always seen with delight." 

I asked what was most requisite to make a piece 
fit for the theatre. 

" It must be symbolical," replied Goethe; ' ' that is 
to say, that each incident must be significant by itself, 
and yet lead naturally to something more important. 
The Tartuffe of Moliere is, in this respect, a great 
example. What an admirable exposition the first 
scene gives at the very beginning ! and every thing 
is significant, yet leads us to expect something still 
more important which is to come. The beginning 
of Lessing's Minna von Barnhelm is also admirable ; 
but there is nothing like the Tartuffe. 

" You find the same perfect adaptation to the theatre 
in Calderon. His pieces are throughout fit for the 
boards. Calderon combined with his genius the finest 
understanding." 

" 'Tis singular," said I, " that the dramas of Shak- 
speare are not better adapted to the theatre, since 
he wrote them all for the stage." 

" Shakspeare," replied Goethe, " wrote those pieces 
direct from his own nature. In his time, there was 
nothing in stage arrangements to constrain him. Do 
what he chose, he need not fear to displease ; but, 
if Shakspeare had written for the Court of Madrid, 
or for that of Louis XIV., he would probably have 
adapted himself to a severer theatrical form. We 



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need not regret that he did not, for what he has lost 
as a dramatist, he has gained as a poet; he is a 
great pschychologist ; from him we learn the mind 
of man." 

We then talked of the difficulties in managing a 
theatre. Goethe said the chief was to keep the 
repertory full of good tragedies, operas, and comedies, 
in proper acting order, and at the same time to make 
proper use of occasions to introduce novelties. He 
observed that we are now so rich in good pieces, 
that the connoisseur may easily make an excellent 
selection ; but it is very difficult to keep them in a 
state of readiness for the stage. 

" When Schiller and I had the care of the theatre, 
we had the great advantage of keeping it open during 
summer in Lauchstedt. Here we had a select audience, 
who liked nothing that was not good ; so we returned 
in autumn, well versed in the best plays, and used 
again, in the winter, the preparations we had made 
in the summer ; and the Weimar public had such 
confidence in our judgment that, even if they did not 
fully appreciate what they saw, they had confidence 
there was something valuable in it, or we should not 
have presented it to them. 

" In the year ninety," continued Goethe, " the 
period of my interest in the theatre was already gone 
by ; my mind was entirely turned from the drama to 
epic poetry ; but Schiller revived my interest, and for 
love of him I again paid some attention to the theatre. 
At the time when I wrote ' Clavigo,' I could easily 
have followed it up with a dozen such pieces. I had 
plenty of subjects, and production was easy to me. 

p 



170 ECKERMANN. 

I might have written a piece every eight days, and 
I am sorry I did not." 

Wednesday, 8th November. 

Goethe spoke again of Lord Byron. " I have," 
said he, " just read once more his ' Deformed Trans- 
formed,' and admire his genius more than ever. His 
demon was suggested by Mephistophiles. It is, 
however, no imitation, but a new and original crea- 
tion of great merit. There are no weak passages, 
not a place where you could put the head of a pin, 
where you do not find invention and thought. But 
for his hypochondriacal negative turn, he would have 
been as great as Shakspeare — as the ancients." I 
expressed surprise at such an assertion. 

" You may believe me," said Goethe, " the more 
I study him, the more I think so." 

Some time ago, Goethe had remarked that Byron 
had too much empiricism. I did not understand 
exactly what he meant ; but I forbore to ask, and 
thought of it in silence. However, I got nothing by 
thinking of it, and found that I must wait till my 
improved culture, or some happy circumstance, should 
unlock the secret for me. Such a one I found 
to-day, when I had seen at the theatre an excellent 
representation of " Macbeth," and afterwards took 
up Byron to read his " Beppo." By comparing the 
impression received from this poem with that which 
Macbeth had left upon my mind, I learned to 
conjecture. In " Macbeth," a spirit had impressed 
me, whose grandeur and sublimity could have been 
created only by a Shakspeare. You saw there the 



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natural dower of a high and deep nature. Whatever 
this piece has of knowledge of the world or experience, 
is quite subordinate to its poetic spirit, and serves 
only to assist interpretation. The great poet rules 
and raises us, even to his own point of view. 

In " Beppo," on the contrary, I found the empiric 
uppermost, too powerful even over the mind which 
introduces it to us. I found not here, as in " Macbeth," 
the great and genuine thoughts of a highly-gifted poet. 
The influence of the world was every where apparent. 
He seemed to be on the same level with all intellectual 
men of the world, who have the advantage of high 
rank, and is in no way distinguished above them, 
except by the superiority of talent, which makes him 
their mouth-piece. 

So I felt, in reading " Beppo," that Lord Byron had 
too much empiricism, not because he brought real 
life too much before us, but because his higher poetic 
nature is often subordinated or even silenced. 

Wednesday, November 29, 1826. 

I had just been reading Lord Byron's " Deformed 
Transformed," and talked with Goethe about it after 
dinner. " The first scenes," said he, " are full of 
poetry ; the remainder, about the siege of Rome, and 
the rest, are not poetical, yet full of significance." 
" It is not difficult," said I, " to be so epigrammatic 
when one, like him, respects nothing." 

He smiled. " You are not wrong," said he. ** We 
must confess the poet oversteps the limits of decorum. 
He tells us truths, but truths so disagreeable, that 
we should love him better if he held his peace. There 



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are things in this world, which the true poet rather 
conceals than discloses ; but as to Byron, you might as 
well wish to annihilate him as wish him other than he 
is; so decided is his character." 

" Do you remember," said I, ft the passage, 

* The devil speaks truth much oftener than 'tis deemed ; 
He hath an ignorant audience ? " 

" That is as good as one of Mephistophiles' say- 
ings." 

" Since we are talking of Mephistophiles," con- 
tinued Goethe, " I will show you something which 
Coudray brought me from Paris." And he brought in 
an engraving, representing the scene where Faust and 
Mephistophiles, on their way to free Margaret from 
her imprisonment, are rushing by the gallows on two 
horses. Faust rides a black horse, which gallops wildly 
on, and seems as much afraid of the ghost beneath 
the gallows as his rider. They ride so fast that Faust 
can scarcely keep his seat. The current of air which 
he raises has blown off his hat, which, fastened by 
straps about his neck, flies behind him. His fearful, 
inquiring face is turned to Mephistophiles, to whose 
words he is listening. Mephistophiles, on the contrary, 
rides on in tranquillity, untroubled and unassailed, 
like a being of a higher nature. He rides no living 
horse, for he loves not what is living ; indeed, he does 
not need it, for his will is sufficient to move him 
wherever he pleases. He has a horse merely to save 
appearances ; he seems to have snatched up the first 
skeleton he could find. It is white, and shines in the 



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darkness of night with phosphoric brilliancy ; it is 
neither bridled nor saddled, yet runs fleetly. The 
supernatural rider sits negligently, his face turned 
towards Faust, as if in conversation. The opposing 
element of air is for him as if it were not ; neither 
he nor his horse shows any trace of it." 

I expressed much pleasure in this composition. 
" Indeed," said Goethe, " I myself did not think it 
out so perfectly. Now look at this other." 

The wild scene of Auerbach's cellar is represented 
in the other, at the moment when the wine sparkles 
up into flames, and those present show their intoxica- 
tion in various ways. All is passion and motion ; 
Mephistophiles alone maintains his usual composure. 
He cares not for the wild cursing and screaming, and 
the drawn knife of the man who stands next him 
moves him not a whit. He sits on the corner of the 
table, dangling his legs. His upraised finger is enough 
to subdue flame and passion. 

The more you looked at this fine design, the more 
admirable seemed the art ; for no figure resembled 
another, and each one expressed some essential part of 
the action. 

" Delacroix," said Goethe, " is a man of distin- 
guished genius, who found in * Faust 1 the very aliment 
his mind needed. The wildness for which his country- 
men blame him stands him in stead here. I hope he 
will illustrate all 1 Faust/ and I anticipate a special 
pleasure from the scenes in the witches' kitchen and on 
the Brocken. You see here the extensive experience 
of life, for which a city like Paris has given him such 
opportunity." 

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I observed that these designs greatly assist the 
comprehension of a poem. 

" Undoubtedly," said Goethe ; " for the more perfect 
conception of such an artist constrains us to find as 
many beauties in the subject as he did. And, if I 
must confess, Delacroix has, in many instances, sur- 
passed my own idea of the scenes which I myself 
originated. Surely, then, the mere reader may find 
his imagination quickened by their aid." 

Monday, 11th December. 
I found Goethe in an animated and happy mood. 
" Alexander von Humboldt has passed some hours 
with me this morning," said he, coming to meet me 
with great vivacity ; " what a man he is ! Long as 
I have known him, he is continually astonishing me 
anew. I may say he has not his equal in knowledge, 
in living wisdom ; and such many-sidedness I have 
found no where else. Wherever you call upon him, 
you find him at home, every where ready to lavish 
upon you the intellectual treasures he has amassed. 
He is like a fountain with many pipes ; you need 
only to get a vessel to hold under it, on any side 
refreshing streams flow at a mere touch. He is to 
stay some days ; and I shall feel, when he goes away, 
as if I had lived years during his visit." 

Wednesday, 13th December. 
At table, the ladies praised a portrait by a young 
painter. " What is most surprising," said they, " he 
has learned every thing by himself." You could see 
that, indeed, by the hands, which are not in correct 



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drawing. " This young man," said Goethe, " has 
talent ; but you should not praise, but rather scold him, 
for learning every thing by himself. Let no man of 
talent rely on his natural resources, but devote himself 
to art, and seek out good masters, who will show him 
what to do with what he has. I have, to-day, read a 
letter from Mozart, where he, in reply to a Baron who 
had sent him his composition, wrote as follows : — 

" ' I must scold you Dilettanti for two faults, which 
I usually find among you ; either you have no thoughts 
of your own, and take up with those of others, or, 
if you have thoughts of your own, you never find out 
what to do with them.' 

" Is not this admirable (himmlisch) 1 and does not 
this fine remark, which Mozart makes about music, 
apply to all the other arts 1 

" Leonardo da Vinci said, ' If your son knows not 
how to bring out his drawings by deep shades, so 
round that one can take hold of the forms with his 
hands, he has no talent ; ' and further says Leonardo, 
' After your son has become perfectly acquainted with 
perspective and anatomy, put him to a good master.' 
And now-a-days our young artists scarce understand 
either when they leave their masters, so are times 
changed. 

" But, indeed, our young painters are every way 
deficient. Their creations say nothing and do nothing. 
They paint swords that cannot pierce, and darts that 
cannot hit; and I often feel as if the soul of things 
were quite vanished out of the world." 

" And yet," said I, " we might expect that the great 
events of the late wars would have called forth talent." 



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" They called forth," replied Goethe, " more eager- 
ness than talent, and more talent for politics than for 
art, and all naivete and fulness of meaning is more 
than ever wanting ; yet how will a painter, destitute 
of these attributes, produce any thing which can 
bestow a genuine joy 1 " 

# # # # # * # # 

<l I have now," continued Goethe, " been observing 
painting in Germany for fifty years or more, and not 
merely observed, but lent a hand also, so that I am not 
rash in saying that little is to be expected in that 
quarter, unless, indeed, a great genius should come, 
which can appropriate all which has been done so 
far, and make it the means of far higher excellence. 
The means are all here, and the way marked out. 
Have we not even the works of Phidias before our 
eyes 1 — a piece of good fortune, of which, in youth, 
I could not so much as dream. Perhaps the great 
genius that we need so much, is now in the cradle, 
and you may live to see its glory." 

Wednesday, 3d January, 1827. 
At dinner, we talked over Canning's excellent 
speech upon Portuguese affairs. " Some people," 
said Goethe, " call this speech a blunder ; but these 
are people who know not what they want, unless 
it be to cabal against all greatness. They are like 
the Frondeurs ; they must have something great, 
that they may hate it. In Napoleon's time, they 
were never at a loss; after his fall, they assailed the 
Holy Alliance, than which nothing greater or more 
beneficial to mankind ever existed. Now it is 



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Canning's turn. His speech upon Portugal was 
dictated by a grand consciousness of the extent 
of his power and the dignity of his position ; and 
he is in the right to speak as he feels. The Sans 
Culottes cannot understand this; and what to us 
seems sublime, is mere stupidity in their eyes. The 
grand disturbs them; they are not so constituted 
as to understand, and cannot endure it." 

Thursday evening, 4th January. 

Goethe praised highly the poems of Victor Hugo. 
" He is," said he, " a man of decided genius, on 
whom German literature has had an influence. His 
poetic youth has, unfortunately, been disturbed by the 
pedantry of the classic school; but now he has the 
1 Globe' on his side, and has won the game. I am 
inclined to compare him with Manzoni. He has much 
objectivity, and seems to me quite as important a per- 
sonage as De la Martine and De la Vigne. On close 
survey, I see the source of this and other fresh talent. 
Chateaubriand, who is really distinguished for his 
rhetorical and poetical talents, was their founder. 
That you may see how Victor Hugo writes, read 
now this poem upon Napoleon — Les deux Isles." 

He gave me the book, and went to the stove. I 
read the poem. " Has he not fine images," said 
Goethe, " and has not he managed the subject with 
great freedom of spirit?" He came back to me. 
" Only see how fine is this passage." He read that 
of the storm-cloud, from which the lightning darts 
upward against the hero. " That is fine ; the image 
is correct : among the mountains we often have the 



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storm beneath us, and may be supposed to see the 
lightning dart upwards." 

" I praise the French," said I, " for never deserting 
the firm ground of reality. We can translate their 
poems into prose, without losing any of the sub- 
stance." 

" That," said Goethe, " is because the French poets 
have real knowledge, while our German simpletons 
fancy they shall injure their talent, if they labor for 
the knowledge which is, in fact, necessary nourishment 
to talent. But let them pass; we can do them no 
good, and real talent will find its way. Many young 
poets, who are now before the public, have no real 
talent, but have been excited to vain attempts by 
the high state of literature in this country. 

" That the French have passed from their former 
pedantry into this free manner, is n<jt surprising. 
Diderot, and minds like his, sought to break open 
this path. The revolution and the reign of Napoleon 
both favored this ; for, if those warlike days were 
refreshing to the interests of poetry, and allowed no 
fair play to the Muses, yet they fashioned a multitude 
of intellects to freedom, who now, in times of peace, 
can meditate and produce." 

The conversation turned upon painting, and on the 
mistakes of the school who so superstitiously worship 
antiquity, (alterthümelnden Schule.) "You do not 
consider yourself a connoisseur," said Goethe ; " but 
I will show you a picture, painted, too, by one of the 
best living German artists, where you will perceive, 
at a glance, glaring offences against the primary rules 



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of art. You will be pleased with parts, dissatisfied 
with the picture as a whole, and will not know what 
to make of it ; not because he has not talent, but 
because his judgment, which should have directed that 
talent, is completely darkened, like that of all these 
bigots to antiquity; so that he ignores the perfect 
masters, and takes pattern from their imperfect 
predecessors. 

" Raphael and his contemporaries broke through the 
limitations of mannerism, to nature and freedom. And 
now, our artists, instead of being thankful, and using 
these advantages to proceed on the good way, wish 
to return to the limitations. 

" It is hard to understand this provoking obscuration 
of their intellects ; and, since art will not sustain them 
in this course, they seek support from religion and 
party spirit ; if they did not, they could not uphold 
themselves in such weakness. 

" There is, through all art, a filiation. If you see a 
great master, you will find that he has built up his great- 
ness upon the achievements of his predecessors. Men 
like Raphael grow not from the ground. They take 
root in the antique, and the best which has been done 
before them. Had they not used the advantages of 
their time, little would have been said of them in 
ours." 

# * #* ** * # 

Sunday evening, 12th January. 
Goethe had a small musical party. The performers 
were the Eberwein family, and some members of the 
orchestra. Among the few hearers were General 



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Superintendent Röhr, Hofrath Vogel, and some ladies. 
At Goethe's request, they performed a quartette, by a 
celebrated young composer. Karl Ebervvein, a boy 
twelve years old, played the piano entirely to Goethe's 
satisfaction, — indeed, admirably, — and all the parts 
were well performed. 

" 'Tis strange," said Goethe, " this state to which 
the great improvements in the technical and me- 
chanical part have brought our late composers. Their 
productions are no longer music ; they go quite beyond 
the level of human feelings, and the mind and heart 
answer no more. How do you feel ? For my part, 
I hear with my ears only." 

I replied that I fared no better. 

" Yet that Allegro," said he, " had character ; that 
whirling and twirling brought before my mind the 
witches' dance on the Blocksberg." 

After we had taken refreshments, Goethe asked 
Madame Eberwein for some songs. She sang, to 
Zelter's music, the beautiful song, Um Mitternacht, 
which made the deepest impression. 

" That song," said Goethe, " remains beautiful, hear 
it as often as you will ! There is something eternal, 
indestructible, in that melody ! " 

The Erl König obtained great applause, and the aria, 
Ich hab's gesagt der guten Mutter, made every one 
say the music suited it so entirely, no one could even 
have wished it otherwise. Goethe himself was ex- 
tremely pleased. Some songs from his Divan were 
sung with equal success. 

After our friends had gone, I staid for a moment, 
and he said — "I observe that those songs from the 



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Divan are quite gone by for me. The Oriental and 
impassioned elements have died out ; or, rather, I have 
left them behind, as the snake leaves on his path the 
old skin he has cast by. Um Mitternacht, on the 
contrary, is a part of me, and will live with me while 
I live. 

" Oftentimes, my old productions seem wholly strange 
to me. To-day, I read a passage in French, and 
thought — 4 This man speaks discreetly enough — thou 
mightst thyself have said the same ' — when, lo, I find 
it is a passage translated from my own writings ! " 

Monday evening, January 15th. 

After the completion of " Helena," Goethe had 
employed the latter days of the summer upon the 
Wanderjahre. He often talked to me about the 
progress of this work. 

" In order the better to make use of the materials 
I possess," said he to me one day, " I have taken the 
first part entirely to pieces, and intend, by mingling 
the old with the new, to make two parts. I have 
had what is printed copied. The places where I have 
new matter to introduce are marked, and when my 
secretary comes to such a place, I dictate what is 
wanting, and thus compel myself never to let my 
work stop." 

Another day he said to me, " All that was formerly 
printed of the Wanderjahre is now completely copied. 
1 have had blue paper put where I am to introduce new 
matter, so that I always have before my eyes what 
is yet to do. As I go on at present, these blue spots 

Q 



182 



ECKERMANN. 



vanish very fast, and I take great pleasure in see- 
ing it." 

Some weeks since, I had heard from his secretary 
that he was at work on a new novel. I therefore 
abstained from evening visits, and satisfied myself with 
seeing him once a week at dinner. This evening, he 
showed me the first sheets of his novel. It was that 
of the death of the tiger, and the charming of the 
lion by a little boy. 

While reading, I admired the extraordinary clearness 
with which all objects, even the very smallest locality, 
were brought before our eyes. Their going out to 
hunt, the old ruins of the castle, the fair, the way 
through the fields to the ruins, were all made manifest 
to the eye, in a style so distinct and masterly, that you 
could never look forward to what was coming, even by 
a single line. 

" Your excellency," said' I, "must have had a very 
decided plan for this work." 

"Yes, indeed," replied Goethe, "I have had it in 
my head for about thirty years ; but, at first, as in 
' Hermann and Dorothea,' I meant to treat the subject 
in an epic form, and in hexameters ; but, when I now 
wished to take up the subject again, I could not find 
my old plan, and was led to manage it in a wholly new 
manner. Since I finished, I find the old plan ; but I 
am glad I did not earlier. It would only have con- 
fused me; the present is better." 

" That is a beautiful situation," said I, " in which 
Honorio stands over the dead tiger, at the moment 
when the lamenting woman with her boy has just come 



CONVERSATIONS. 



183 



up, and the prince too, with his retinue of huntsmen, 
is hastening to join this singular group ; it would make 
a fine picture. I should like to see it painted." 

" Yes," said Goethe, " that would be a fine picture. 
Yet, perhaps," continued he, after some reflection, 
" the subject is almost too rich, and the figures are 
too many ; it would be difficult for the artist to group 
them, and distribute lights and shades to advantage. 
That earlier moment, in which Honorio kneels on the 
tiger, and the princess is opposite to him on horseback, 
has seemed a picture in my mind, and that might be 
done." 

I remarked that this novel was very unlike in 
character to those of the Wanderjahre, as all its 
merits lay in representation of the outward world. 

"Yes," said Goethe, "there is scarce any thing 
of the inward world here ; in my other things there is 
almost too much." 

We talked of the second part of M Faust," especially 
of the classical Walpurgis night, which existed as yet 
only in plan, and which Goethe had said to me that he 
meant to publish as a separate sketch. I now advised 
him not to do so ; for I thought, if he did, he would 
always leave it in this unfinished state. He seemed to 
have thought better of it himself, and decided that he 
would not print it so. 

"Now, then," said I, "I shall hope to see it com- 
pleted." 

" It might be done in three months," said he, " could 
I but have peace for it. Each day has too many claims 
on me ; it is very difficult to isolate myself sufficiently. 
This morning, the hereditary Grand Duke was here ; 



184 ECKERMANN. 



to-morrow noon, the Grand Duchess proposes visiting 
me. Certainly, such visits are a high favor, and 
embellish my life ; but they are a tax upon my mind. 
I am obliged to bethink myself what I have new, 
wherewith worthily to entertain such dignified per- 
sonages." 

"Yet," said I, "you finished 'Helena,' last winter, 
when you were no less disturbed than now." 

" Yes," he replied, " affairs go on, and must go on ; 
but the difficulties are great." 

" 'Tis well," said I, " that your plan is so completely 
made out." 

" The plan I have, indeed," said Goethe, " but the 
most difficult part is yet to do; and the execution 
of parts depends only too much on the favor of circum- 
stances. The classic Walpurgis night must be written 
in rhymes, and yet the whole must have the air of an 
antique. 'Tis not easy to find a suitable sort of verse ; 
and then the dialogue ! " 

" Is not that also in the plan ?" said I. 

" The what is there," he replied, " but not the liow. 
Then, only think what is to be said on that mad night ! 
Faust's speech to Proserpine, when he would move her 
to give him Helena — what a speech should that be, 
which must move Proserpine herself to tears ! All 
this is not easy to do, and depends almost solely on 
the mood and strength at the moment of writing." 

Wednesday, 17th January. 
Lately, during Goethe's indisposition, we have dined 
in the work-room, which looks out on the garden. 
To-day, I found the cloth laid in what is called the 



CONVERSATIONS. 



185 



Urbino chamber, which I received as a good omen. 
I found there Goethe and his son : both welcomed me 
in their naive, affectionate manner, and I observed, by 
the animation of Goethe's face, that he was in his 
happiest mood. 

Through the open door of the next room, I saw 
Chancellor von Müller, looking at a large engraving. 
Goethe said this was a work of the celebrated Parisian 
Gerard, just sent him by the artist as a present. " Go 
you in also," added he, " and take a peep before our 
soup comes." 

I saw, written upon the engraving, that the artist 
sent it to Goethe as a mark of particular esteem. 
I could not look long, as Frau von Goethe came in, 
and I was called to table. 

" Is not that noble?" said Goethe. " You may study 
it days and weeks before you can find out all its rich 
thoughts and various perfections." 
*# * * 

Frau von Goethe animated the conversation with 
her usual attractive liveliness. Young Goethe joking 
her about certain arrangements, she would not under- 
stand him. 

" We must not spoil fair ladies," said Goethe, " they 
are so ready to break all bounds. Even at Elba, 
Napoleon was persecuted by milliners' bills; yet was 
he, in such matters, rather inclined to do too little than 
too much. One day, at the Tuilleries, a marchand de 
modes offered, in his presence, valuable goods to the 
Empress. Napoleon showing no disposition to buy 
any thing, the man gave him to understand that he was 
not sufficiently complaisant to his wife. Napoleon 

Q 2 



186 



ECKERMANN. 



answered never a word, but measured him with such a 
look, that the man hastily packed up his things, and 
was seen no more." 

"Was he consul then?" asked Frau von Goethe. 

"More probably Emperor," replied Goethe; "else 
his look would not have been so formidable. I cannot 
but laugh when I think how that look pierced through 
the poor man, who saw himself already beheaded or 
shot down." 

" I wish," said young Goethe, " that I had pictures 
or engravings of all Napoleon's great deeds, to fill a 
gallery." 

" You could not make a gallery large enough to put 
the pictures in, of his great deeds." 

The Chancellor turned the conversation on Luden's 
" History of the Germans," and I had reason to 
admire the dexterity and penetration which young 
Goethe displayed in excusing all which the reviewers 
had found to blame in the book by the influence of the 
national views and feelings of the writer's age. It was 
granted that the wars of Napoleon had explained to us 
those of Caesar. " For before," said Goethe, " Caesar's 
book was really not much better than an exercise for 
the schools." 

From the old German time, the conversation turned 
upon the Gothic. We spoke of a bookcase which had 
a Gothic character, and from this were led to discuss 
the late fashion of arranging entire apartments in the 
old German or Gothic style, and thus living under the 
influences of early days. 

" In a house," said Goethe, " large enough to allow 
of some apartments being thus furnished and used 



CONVERSATIONS. 



187 



only three or four times a year, such a fancy might be 
in place. I would no more object to its owner's 
having a Gothic, than to Madame Pankoucke at Paris 
having a Chinese apartment. But I cannot praise the 
man who dresses out the rooms in which he lives 
in this strange, old-fashioned garniture. It is a sort 
of masquerade, which can, in the long run, have no 
favorable influence on the man who adopts it. Such 
a fashion is in contradiction to the day in which we 
live, and can only serve to confirm the empty and 
hollow way of thinking and feeling in which it origi- 
nated. It is well enough, on a merry winter's evening, 
to go to a masquerade in the dress of a Turk : but 
what should we think of the man who wore such a one 
all Lie year round 1 Either that he was crazy, or in a 
fair way to become so." 

We found Goethe's words very convincing, and as, 
the reproof touched none of us, received the truth with 
the pleasantest feelings. 

The conversation now turning upon the theatre, 
Goethe rallied me for having, last Monday evening, 
sacrificed it to him. " Three years he has lived here," 
said he, turning to the others, " and this is the first 
evening he has given up the theatre for love of me. I 
ought to think a great deal of it. I had invited him, 
and he had promised to come, yet I doubted whether he 
would keep his word, especially as it struck half past 
seven before I saw any thing of him. Indeed, I should 
have rejoiced if he had not come at all ; for then I could 
have said he is a wholly perverse, wrong-headed man, 
who loves the theatre better than his dearest friend, and 
whom nothing can turn aside from his obstinate partial- 



188 



ECKERMANN. 



ity. But did I not make it up to you ? have I not 
shown you fine things ? " These words alluded to the 
new novel. 

We talked of Schiller's " Fiesco," which was acted 
last Saturday. " I saw it for the first time," said I, " and 
have been thinking whether those extremely rough 
scenes could not be softened ; but I find very little could 
be done without spoiling the character of the whole." 

" Yes, that can never be done," replied Goethe. 
" Schiller often talked with me about the possibility of 
doing it ; for he himself could not endure his first plays, 
and would never have them brought on the stage while 
we had the direction ; but we were in want of pieces, 
and would willingly have fitted those three powerful 
firstlings for our purpose. But we found it impossible ; 
all the parts were too closely inwrought one with 
another ; so that Schiller himself despaired of accom- 
plishing it." 

" 'Tis pity," said I; " for, notwithstanding all their 
roughness, I love them a thousand times better than the 
soft, weak, forced, and unnatural pieces of later writers. 
A sublime intellect and character is felt in every thing 
of Schiller's." 

" Yes," said Goethe, " Schiller might do what he 
would, he could not make any thing which would not 
come out far greater than the best of these playwrights. 
If he only cut his nails, he showed his superiority to 
these gentlemen." We laughed at this remark. 

" But. I have known persons," continued he, " who 
could not be at peace about those first dramas of Schiller. 

" One summer, at a bathing place, I was walking 
through a very secluded, narrow path, which led to a mill. 



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189 



There Prince met me, and, as, at the same moment, 

some mules, laden with meal sacks, came up to us, we 
were obliged to step into a small house that stood by the 
way. Here, as is the fashion of this prince, we were 
immediately plunged into discourse about all divine 
and human things, and, Schiller's ' Robbers ' being 
mentioned, the prince expressed himself thus: — 

" 1 Had I been God,' said he, ' on the point of making 
this world, and could have foreseen at that moment that 
Schiller's " Robbers " would be written in it, I would not 
have made the world.' What say you to that ? Here 
was a distaste which went pretty far, and could hardly 
be explained." 

" The younger people," said I, " and especially the 
students, would scarcely sympathize with him. The 
most excellent, ripest pieces of Schiller and others may 
be acted, and draw few young people, or none, at the 
theatre ; but let them give Schiller's * Robbers,' or 
' Fiesco,' and the house would be filled by students alone. 

"That," said Goethe, " was so fifty years ago, as it is 
now, and probably will be fifty years hence. Young peo- 
ple will best enjoy what a man has written in his youth ; 
nor need we think that the world makes such progress in 
culture or good taste that youth itself has got beyond 
that era of rudeness. If the world does improve on 
the whole, yet youth must always begin anew, and go 
through the stages of culture from the beginning. This 
no longer irritates me." 

*# # * # * 

After some conversation about a novel which Goethe 
had lately been writing, he said, " I am glad you like it. 
Schiller and Humboldt, to whom I detailed the plan, 



190 



ECKERMANN. * 



could see no promise in it, as indeed they could not 
appreciate the capabilities of such a subject. The poet 
alone knows what charms he is capable of giving to his 
subject. It is best never to ask any body if you wish 
to write any thing. If Schiller had asked me about 
his 'Wallenstein,' I should surely have advised him 
against it ; for I could never have dreamed that, from 
such a subject, so admirable a drama could be made. 
Schiller was equally opposed to my using hexameters. 
He advised me to take eight-line stanza for my ' Hermann 
and Dorothea yet he was wrong, for such rhymes would 
have constrained me in that careful delineation of the 
localities on which so much depends." 

Other single tales and novels of the Wanderjahre 
were talked of ; and it was observed that each had dis- 
tinct character and tone. "That," said Goethe, "is 
because I went to work like a painter who for certain 
subjects shuns certain colors, and puts upon his palette 
such as he is likely to want. If he has in hand a 
morning landscape, he rubs a great deal of blue, and 
but little yellow. But, if he is to paint an evening 
scene, he has a great deal of yellow, and scarce any 
blue. I prepared in the same way for my different 
productions." 

I expressed admiration at the fidelity in details of 
scenery. 

" I have," said Goethe, " never observed Nature with 
a view to my poetical productions; but, because my 
early drawing of landscapes, and my studies in after 
years, led me to constant, close observation of natural 
objects, I have gradually learned Nature by heart even 
in the minutest details, so that, when I, as a poet, need 



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any thing, it is at my command ; and I cannot easily sin 
against truth in my descriptions. Schiller had no such 
knowledge of Nature. The localities of Switzerland, 
which he used in ' William Tell,' were all related to 
him by me ; but his wonderful intellect could make 
such second-hand views look like reality." 

" But his proper productive talent lay in the ideal ; 
and there it may be said he has scarcely his equal in 
German or other literatures. He has almost every 
thing that Lord Byron had ; but Lord Byron was 
superior in knowledge of the world. I wish Schiller 
had known Lord Byron's works. I wonder what he 
would have said to so congenial a mind." 

Did Byron publish any thing during Schiller's 
life?" 

I could not say with certainty. Goethe took down 
the " Conversations Lexicon," and read the article on 
Byron, making many hasty remarks as he did so. He 
found that Byron had published nothing before 1807, 
and thus that Schiller could have seen nothing of his. 

" Through all Schiller's works," continued Goethe, 
" goes the idea of freedom, though this idea assumed 
a new shape as Schiller advanced in his culture and 
became another man. 

" In his youth it was physical, in his later life it was 
ideal freedom, that engaged his thoughts. Now, every 
man has freedom enough, if he could only satisfy him- 
self, and knew what he is fit for. What avails us a 
superfluity of freedom which we cannot use ? You see 
this chamber, and the next, in which you, through the 
open door, see my bed. Neither of them is large; and 
they are by necessary furniture, books, manuscripts, 



192 ECKERMANN. 

% 

and works of art, made narrower ; but they are enough 
for me. I have lived in them all winter, scarce entering 
my other rooms. Of what use has been my spacious 
house, and the liberty of going from one room to 
another ? " 

" If a man has freedom enough to live healthy, and 
work at his craft, he has enough ; and each man can 
easily obtain this amount of freedom. Then none of 
us are free, except under certain conditions, which we 
must fulfil. The citizen is as free as the nobleman, if 
he will but restrain himself within the limits which God 
appointed by placing him in that rank. The nobleman 
is as free as the prince ; for, if he will but observe a 
few ceremonies at court, he may feel himself his equal 
Freedom consists not in refusing to recognize any thing 
above us, but in knowing how to respect what is above 
us ; for, by respecting it, we raise ourselves to it, and 
make manifest that we bear within ourselves the idea of 
what is higher, and are worthy to be on a level with it. 

" I have on my journeys met merchants from the north 
of Germany, who fancied they showed themselves my 
equals by rudely seating themselves next me at table. 
That was not the way ; but they might have become 
so, if they had known how to value and treat me 
properly. 

" The eager interest of Schiller's youthful years in 
physical freedom was caused partly by the structure of 
his mind, but still more from the stern control which 
he endured at the military school. In later days, when 
he had enough of this kind of freedom, he passed over 
to the ideal ; and I might almost say that this was the 
cause of his death, since it led him to make demands 



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193 



on his physical nature which were too much for his 
strength. 

" The Grand Duke destined for Schiller, when he 
was established here, an income of one thousand dol- 
lars yearly, and offered to give him twice as much in 
case he should be hindered by sickness from working. 
Schiller declined this last offer, and never availed him- 
self of it. 4 I have talents,' said he, 1 and must help 
myself.' As his family enlarged of late years, he was 
obliged, for a livelihood, to write two dramas yearly ; and 
to accomplish this, he forced himself to write days and 
weeks when he was unwell. He would have his talents 
obedient at all times and seasons. He never drank 
much ; he was very temperate ; but, in such hours of bod- 
ily weakness, he was obliged to sustain himself by the use 
of spirituous liquors. This habit not only injured his 
health, but also his productions : the faults which some 
wise heads find in his works proceed, I think, from this 
source. All the passages which they blame may be 
styled pathological passages ; for they were written on 
those days when he had not strength to do his best. 
I have great respect for the categorical imperative. I 
know how much good may proceed from it ; neverthe- 
less, this ideal freedom, if carried too far, leads to no 
good." 

******** 

Sunday evening, 21st January. 
I went, at half past eight this evening, to Goethe, 
and staid with him an hour. He showed me some new 
poems in French, by Mademoiselle Gay, which he 
highly praised. 

R 



194 ECKERMANN. 

" The French," said he, " make out their case so 
clearly, that it is well worth while to look after them. 
I have lately been trying to become acquainted with 
the present state of French literature; and, if I 
succeed, shall express the result. It is very interesting 
to observe how the same elements are now at work 
with them, which we went through with long ago." 
* # # * * # * * 

" What says your excellency to Beranger, and the 
author of 'Clara Gazul?' " 

" Those," he replied, " are great geniuses, who have 
their foundation in themselves, and keep free from the 
conventional modes of thinking of their time." 

" I am glad to hear you say this," said I, " for I 
have had a similar feeling about them." 

The conversation turned from French to German 
literature. " I will show you something," said Goethe, 
" that will be interesting to you. Give me one of 
those two volumes which lie before you. Solger is 
no doubt known to you." 

" Surely," said I, " his translation of Sophocles, 
no less than his preface, gave me long since a high 
opinion of him." 

" You know he has been dead some years," said 
Goethe ; " and this is a collection of the writings 
and letters he left. He does not shine in his philo- 
sophical inquiries, which he has given us in the form 
of Platonic dialogues; but his letters are admirable. 
In one of them, he writes to Tieck upon the Wahlver- 
wandtschaften, and I wish to read it to you ; for it 
would not be easy to say any thing better about that 
romance." 



CONVERSATIONS. 



195 



He read me these excellent remarks, and we talked 
them over point by point, admiring the dignified 
character of his views, and the logical sequence of his 
reasoning. Although Solger confessed that the facts 
of the " Elective Affinities" had their germ in the 
nature of all characters, yet he blamed that of Ed- 
ward. 

" No wonder," said Goethe, " he cannot endure 
Edward. I myself cannot endure him, but was 
obliged to make him such a man in order to bring 
out my facts. He is, besides, true to nature ; you find 
many such people in the higher ranks, who, like him, 
substitute selfish obstinacy for character. 

" High above all, Solger placed the Architect ; 
because, while all the other persons of the romance 
show themselves loving and weak, he alone remains 
strong and free; and the beauty of his character 
appears in this, that he not only does not share the 
^errors of the other characters, but the poet has made 
him so noble, that he could not even understand them." 

We were much pleased with this remark. 

" That is really fine," said Goethe. 

" I have," said I, " felt the importance and loveliness 
of the Architect's character ; but I had never remarked 
that he was by nature incapable of those bewilderments 
of passion." 

" No wonder that you have not remarked it," said 
Goethe, " for I myself never remarked it while I was 
creating him; yet Solger is right — such is the basis 
of his character. 

" These remarks," continued he, " were written in 
the year 1809, I should have been much cheered 



196 



ECKERMANN. 



to have heard so kind a word about the « Elective 
Affinities,' for, at that time, and later, not many 
pleasant remarks have been vouchsafed me about that 
romance. 

" I see from these letters, that Solger was much 
attached to me ; and, in one of them, he complains 
that I return no answer about the ' Sophocles' which he 
sent me. Good Heavens ! if they could but know 
my situation, they would not wonder at that. I have 
known great lords, to whom many presents were sent, 
and who had certain formulas and phrases prepared, 
in which they wrote letters to hundreds, all alike 
throughout ; but I never could do so. If I could not 
say to each man something distinct and appropriate 
to the occasion, I preferred not writing to him at all. 
I esteemed superficial phrases unworthy of my use, 
and thus have failed to answer many excellent men 
to whom I would willingly have written. You see, 
yourself, how it is with me ; how messages and 
despatches are constantly flowing in upon me from 
every side ; and you must confess it would occupy 
more than one man's life to answer all these, in ever 
so careless a way. But I am sorry about Solger ; he 
was an admirable being, and deserved, better than 
most, a friendly response." 

ifc ^fe ^ 4t 4fc ^ 

Goethe told me of a foreigner, who had been writing 
to him, and talks of translating several of his 
works. 

" 'Tis a good man," said Goethe, " but, as to litera- 
ture, I must rank him with the tribe of mere Dilettanti. 
He does not yet know German at all, and is already 



CONVERSATIONS. 



197 



talking of the translations he will make, and of the 
portraits which he will prefix to them. 

" That is always the way with the Dilettanti ; they 
have no idea of the difficulties which lie in an under- 
taking, and are always full of some plan for which 
they have no faculty.'* 

Thursday evening, 29th January. 

At seven o'clock I carried the manuscript of the 
novel and a copy of Beranger to Goethe. I found him 
engaged with M. Soret in conversation upon modern 
French literature. It was observed how much these mod- 
ern writers had learned of versification from De Lille. 
Soret, being born a Genevese, does not speak German 
fluently; and, as Goethe talks French very well, the 
conversation was carried on in that language, except 
when I said, now and then, something in German. 
I gave my " Beranger " to Goethe, who wished to read 
his admirable chansons again. Soret thought that 
the portrait, which was prefixed to the poems, was 
not a good likeness. Goethe was much pleased to 
have this beautiful copy in his hands. 

" These songs," said he, " are perfect, especially 
when you look at the burden, without which they 
would be almost too earnest, too intellectual and 
epigrammatic, for songs. Beranger reminds me ever 
of Horace and Hafiz, who stood in the same way 
above their times, satirizing and playing with vices 
and follies; but, because Beranger himself was born 
in a low station, the licentious and common are not 
very hateful to him ; indeed, he shows a sort of 
partiality for them." 



198 



ECKERMANN. 



Many similar remarks were made upon Beranger, 
and other French writers of the time, till M. Soret 
went to Court. I remained alone with Goethe. 

A sealed packet lay upon the table. Goethe laid 
his hand upon it. " This," said he, " is ' Helena,' 
which I am about to send to Cotta." 

I felt, at these words, more than I could say. I felt 
the importance of the moment ; for, as when a newly- 
built vessel puts to sea, and we feel that we know not 
what revolutions of destiny it must encounter — so 
with the creation of a great master, thus going forth 
into the world to do its work through many times, to 
produce and to undergo manifold destinies. 

"I have," said Goethe, "till now, been always 
finding little things, which I wished to add or alter : 
but I must finish now, and I am glad it is going to 
press, and that I shall be left at liberty to turn my 
mind to some other object. Let it live out its proper 
destiny. My comfort is, that the general culture of 
Germany stands at an incredibly high point ; so that 
I need not fear that such a production should long 
remain misunderstood and ineffectual." 

" There is a whole antiquity in it," said I. 

"Yes," said Goethe, "the philologists will find 
matter for their handling." 

" I have no fear," said I, " about the antique part ; 
the detail, the unfolding of individuals, is so thorough ; 
each personage saying just what he should. But the 
modern romantic part is very difficult ; half the history 
of the world is there ; your material is so rich that you 
can only indicate what is to be said upon it, and the 
reader's powers are severely taxed." 



CONVERSATIONS. 



199 



"Yet," said Goethe, "all has sensuous life, and, on 
the stage, would satisfy the eye. More I did not wish. 
If only the crowd of spectators take pleasure in what 
is obvious, the initiated will detect the higher meaning. 
Such has been the case with the ' Magic Flute,' and 
other things of that sort." 

" There is no precedent," said I, " in the records 
of the stage, for beginning a piece as a tragedy, and 
ending it as an opera." 

"The part of Helena," said Goethe, " ought to be 
played by two great female artists ; for we seldom 
find that a fine vocalist has also the talents of a tragic 
actress." 

"Would we could find a great composer for it!" 
said I. 

" We want one," said Goethe, " who, like Meyerbeer, 
has lived so long in Italy, that he combines the Italian 
art and manner with his German nature. Such a one 
would be hard to find, but I do not trouble myself ; I 
rejoice only that I am rid of it. I congratulate myself 
that I did not permit the Chorus again to descend into 
the lower world, but rather dispersed them to the ele- 
ments on the cheerful surface of the earth." 

" That is a new sort of immortality," said I. 
# # * * * # * # 

We talked over the title which should be given to 
his late novel. Many were proposed, but none seemed 
exactly suitable. 

" We will call it 1 The Novel,' " said Goethe ; " for 
what is a novel but a peculiar, and as yet unheard of, 
adventure ? This is the proper meaning of this name ; 
and many which in Germany have assumed the title 



200 



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of novels, are narratives merely. The title is used in 
its proper sense in the Wahlverwandtschaften." 

" If one thinks rightly," said I, " a poem always 
rises in the mind without a title, and is what it is with- 
out a title ; so that the name does not belong to the thing." 

" It does not belong to it," said Goethe ; " the 
ancient poems had no title ; this is a custom of modern 
times, which also have given titles to ancient poems. 
Indeed, since the diffusion of knowledge, it has become 
necessary to give name to every thing, in order to keep 
literature distinct in the mind." 

He showed me a translation of a Servian poem, by 
M. Gerhard. I read it with great pleasure. The 
poem was very beautiful, and the translation so simple 
and clear that the reader was never disturbed in his 
contemplation of the subject. The poem was called 
" The Prison Key." I will say nothing here of the 
narrative, except that the close seemed to me abrupt, 
and rather dissatisfying. 

" That is the best part of it," said Goethe, " since, 
thereby, a sting is left in the heart, and the reader is 
excited to image to himself all the possibilities that 
might follow from what he has heard. The close 
leaves behind' material for a whole tragedy, but of a 
sort of which we have many. What is represented in 
the poem, on the contrary, is equally new and beauti- 
ful ; and the poet is very wise to finish only this 
part, and leave the rest to the reader. I would 
willingly insert the poem in Kunst und Alterthum, 
but it is too long ; therefore, I have begged these 
others from Gerhard, which I shall put into the next 
number." 



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201 



Goethe read first the song of the old man who loves 
a young maiden, then the woman's drinking song, and 
finally that animated one beginning " Dance for us, 
Theodore." He read them admirably, and each in a 
peculiar tone and manner. It would not be easy to hear 
any thing more perfect. "Gerhard," said I, "ought 
to be praised for having in each instance chosen the 
most appropriate versification and burden, and has done 
each in so graceful and masterly a manner that we can 
conceive of nothing finer." "How much," said Goethe, 
" has technical practice done for such a genius as 
Gerhard's ; and it is fortunate for him that he has no 
properly literary profession, but one that daily instructs 
him in practical life. He has travelled much in Eng- 
land and other countries; and his tendency to observe 
what is actual has given him, from this circumstance, 
many advantages over our book-learned young poets. 

" If he would confine himself to making good trans- 
lations, his success would be invariable ; but original 
inventions make much greater demands." 

Some reflections being made upon the productions 
of our young poets, it was remarked that scarce one of 
them had given us an example of good prose. " That 
is very natural," said Goethe; "he who would write 
prose must have something to say ; but he who has 
nothing to say can make verses and rhymes ; for one 
word gives the other, till at last you have before you what 
in fact is nothing, yet looks as if it were something." 

Wednesday, 31st January. 
I dined with Goethe. " Since I saw you," said he, 
" I have read many and various things ; among which 



202 



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a Chinese romance has occupied and interested me 
most of all." 

" Chinese romance ! " said I ; " that is indeed some- 
thing quite out of the way." 

" Not so much as you think," said Goethe ; " the 
Chinamen think, act, and feel almost exactly like us ; 
and we should feel perfect congeniality with them, if 
all they do were not more clear, more pure and deco- 
rous than with us. 

" With them all is well contrived, citizen-like, with- 
out great passion or poetic flight ; in these respects, 
much resembling my ' Hermann and Dorothea,' as well 
as the English romances of Richardson. They differ 
from us in another way. Among them, external nature 
is always associated with the human figures. You al- 
ways hear the goldfishes plashing in the pond, and the 
birds singing on the bough ; the day is always serene 
and sunny, the night always clear. There is much talk 
about the moon, but its light does not alter the land- 
scape, because it is as clear as that of day itself ; and 
the interior of the houses is as neat and elegant as 
their pictures. For instance, < I heard the lovely 
maidens laughing, and, when I came where they were, 
I found them sitting on cane chairs.' There a single 
touch gives you the prettiest situation. Ideas of great 
elegance and lightness are associated with cane chairs. 
Then you find an infinite number of legends turned 
almost like proverbs ; as, for instance, of a maiden 
who was so light and graceful, and her feet so delicate, 
that she could balance herself on a flower without 
bending it ; and then one of the young men so excel- 
lent and brave, that, in his thirtieth year, he had the 



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203 



honor to talk with the Emperor ; then of two lovers 
who showed great purity during a long acquaintance, 
and, being on one occasion obliged to pass the night 
in the same chamber, conversed till morning without 
ever once approaching one another. 

" And innumerable other legends, all turning upon 
what is moral and proper. 'Tis this severe habit of 
regulation in every thing which has sustained the 
Chinese Empire for thousands of years past, and will 
for thousands to come. 

" I find a remarkable contrast to this Chinese ro- 
mance in the * Chansons de Beranger,' which have, 
almost every one, some immoral or licentious subject, 
and which would be extremely odious to me, if managed 
by a genius inferior to Beranger. He, however, has 
made them not only tolerable, but pleasing. Is it not 
remarkable, that the subjects of the Chinese poets 
should be so thoroughly moral, and those of the 
most distinguished French poet of the present day 
be exactly the contrary 1 " 

" Such a talent as Beranger's," said I, " would find 
no room in moral subjects." 

" You are right," said Goethe ; " the very perver- 
sions of his time have revealed and developed his 
better nature." 

I asked whether the Chinese romance of which he 
spoke were one of their best, 

" By no means," said Goethe ; " the Chinese have 
thousands of them, and had already, when our fore- 
fathers were still living in the woods. 

"I am more and more convinced that poetry is the 
universal possession of mankind, revealing itself in 



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every place, and at all times, in hundreds of men. 
One makes it a little better than another, and swims 
upon the tide a little longer than another, — that is all. 
Matthisson must not think he is all, nor must I think 
that I am all ; but each must say to himself that the 
gift of poetry is by no means rare, and that nobody 
need give himself airs because he has written a good 
poem. 

" But, really, we Germans are very likely to make 
this pedantic mistake, if we do not take heed to look 
beyond the narrow circle which surrounds us. I 
therefore gladly make excursions to other countries, 
and advise every one to do the same. National 
literature is now rather an unmeaning term ; the epoch 
of World literature is at hand, and each one must 
strive to hasten its approach. But, while we know 
how to value what is foreign, we must not fix our 
attention on any thing in particular, as the only 
pattern and model. We must not think the Chinese 
are a model, or the Servian, or Calderon, or the 
Nibelungen. If we want examples, we had best 
return to the ancient Greeks, in whose works the 
beauty of manhood is constantly represented. All 
the rest we must look at historically, appropriating 
what is good in them, so far as we can use it." 

The bells of passing sledges here allured us to the 
window, as we expected that the long procession, 
which went out to Belvidere this morning, would 
return about this time. 

Goethe, meanwhile, continued his instructive con- 
versation. We talked of Alexander Manzoni ; and he 
told me that Count Reinhard, not long since, saw 



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205 



Manzoni at Paris, where he, as a young author of 
celebrity, has been well received in society, and that 
he was now living pleasantly on his estate in the 
neighborhood of Milan, with a young family and his 
mother. 

" Manzoni," continued he, " wants nothing except 
to know what a good poet he is, and what rights 
belong to him as such. He has quite too much 
respect for history, and is always adding to his pieces 
notes, to show how faithful he has been to its details ; 
yet, though his facts may be historical, his characters 
are no more so than my Thoas and Iphigenia. No 
poet has ever known those historical characters which 
he has painted ; if he had, he could scarcely have 
made use of them. He knows what effects he wishes 
to produce, and models his characters accordingly. 
If I had made Egmont, as in history, the father of a 
dozen children, his light-minded proceedings would 
be altogether absurd. I needed an Egmont more in 
harmony with his own actions and my poetic views ; 
and this is, as Clara says, my Egmont. 

" Why should there be poets, if they only repeated 
the record of the historian. The poet must go further, 
and give us, if possible, something higher and better. 
All the characters of Sophocles bear the stamp of that 
great poet's lofty soul. 'Tis the same in Shakspeare's 
characters, and right with both. Shakspeare, indeed, 
makes his Romans Englishmen ; and there too he was 
right ; for otherwise his nation would not have under- 
stood him. 

" Therefore were the Greeks so great, because they 

s 



206 



ECKERMANN. 



looked less to fidelity to historic facts than to the 
management of them by the poet. We have a fine 
example in Philoctetes, which subject has been taken 
up by all three of the great tragedians, and by Sopho- 
cles, the last and best. His drama has, fortunately, 
come down to us entire, while of those of Eschylus 
and Euripides, we have only fragments, although 
sufficient to show how they have managed the subject. 
If I had but time, I would restore these pieces, as 
I did the Phaeton of Euripides; it would be to me 
no unpleasant or useless task. 

"The problem of this subject at first seems easy to 
solve, namely, to bring Philoctetes, with his bow, from 
the island of Lemnos. In the manner of doing this, 
the power of poetical invention is to be displayed. 
Ulysses must fetch him ; but shall he be known by 
Philoctetes or not? and if not, how shall he be 
disguised ? Shall Ulysses go alone, or have com- 
panions, and who shall they be? Eschylus gave him 
no companion ; in Euripides, it is Diomed ; in 
Sophocles, the son of Achilles. Then, in what 
situation are they to find Philoctetes ? Shall the 
island be inhabited or not ? and, if inhabited, shall 
any sympathetic soul have received him or not ? And 
so with a hundred other things, which are all at the 
discretion of the poet, giving him an opportunity 
to show superior tact and taste. Let the poet look 
to this, and he will not need a subject which has 
never been used before ; neither to look to South 
and North for unheard-of adventures, which are 
often barbarous enough, and merely impress as 



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207 



adventures. To give dignity to a simple subject, 
by a masterly way of treating it, demands intellect 
and genius, such as we rarely find." 

The conversation now turning upon other subjects, 
Goethe made this remark : — " To purify and to improve, 
by filling out an invention, is often right and profitable ; 
but to be remarking and carrying further what has 
once been well made, as Sir Walter Scott, for 
instance, has done about my Mignon, whom he, 
besides her other peculiarities, makes deaf and dumb, 
— this sort of alteration I cannot praise." 

Thursday evening, February 1. 
Goethe told me about a visit, which the Crown 
Prince of Prussia had been making him, in company 
with the Grand Duke. " Also," said he, " the Princes 
Charles and William of Prussia were with me this 
morning. The Crown Prince and Grand Duke staid 
nearly three hours ; and we talked about many things, 
which gave me opportunity to see the intellect, taste, 
knowledge, and superior way of thinking, of these 
young princes." 

4£ 4t ■ 4fc *5t ^ -H:^ 

Speaking of Wolf's theory about Homer, he said — 
" Wolf has destroyed Homer, but could not injure the 
poem, which has the miraculous power of the Valhalla 
heroes, who, if hewn to pieces in the morning, came, 
sound in body and limb, to the noon-day banquet." 

Wednesday, February 4. 
Goethe scolded about the critics who cannot be 
satisfied with Lessing, but make unjust demands upon 



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him. " When people," said he, " compare the pieces 
of Lessing with those of the ancients, and call them 
paltry and miserable, what do they mean ? Let them 
rather pity the extraordinary man who lived in a time 
too poor to afford him better materials; pity him, 
because he found nothing better to do than to meddle 
with Saxon and Prussian transactions in his ' Minna.' 
His polemical turn, too, was the fault of his time. 
In 1 Emilia Galeotti,' he vents his pique against 
princes ; in ' Nathan,' against priests." 

Friday, 16th February. 

I told Goethe that I lately had been reading 
Winckelmann upon the imitation of Greek works of 
art, and I confessed that it often seemed to me that 
Winckelmann was not perfectly clear about his subject. 

" You are quite right," said Goethe ; " we often find 
him merely groping, yet he never fails to have a 
valuable object in view. He is like Columbus, when 
he had not yet discovered the new world, yet bore in 
his mind a presentiment of its existence. We learn 
nothing by reading him, but he helps to become 
something. 

" Meyer has gone further, and has carried the 
knowledge of art to its highest point. His history 
of art is an immortal work ; but he would not have 
become what he is, if, as a youth, he had not formed 
himself on Winckelmann, and walked in the path 
which Winckelmann pointed out. 

" Thus you see once again the advantage of having 
a great predecessor, and the profit of knowing how 
to avail yourself of his labors." 



CONVERSATIONS. 209 

Wednesday, 11th April. 

I went this morning to Goethe about one o'clock, 
as he had invited me to take a drive with him before 
dinner. We took the road to Erfurt : the weather was 
beautiful ; the corn-fields on both sides of the way 
refreshed the eye with the liveliest green. Goethe 
seemed in his feelings gay and young as the early 
spring, but in his words old in wisdom. 

" I must ever repeat it," he began, " the world could 
not exist, if it were not so simple. This ground has 
been tilled a thousand years, yet its powers remain 
ever the same ; a little rain, a little sun, and each 
spring it grows green again." 

He looked some time over the meadows, then, 
turning again to me, continued thus on other sub- 
jects : — 

"I have been reading something singular, — the 
letters of Jacobi and his friends. It is a remarkable 
book, and you must read it, not to learn any thing 
from it, but to take a glance into a state of education 
and literature of which people now have no idea. We 
see interesting men, but they do not act in the same 
direction and for common interests ; each one takes his 
own way, without sympathizing at all in the exertions 
of others ; they are like billiard balls, which run 
blindly by one another on the green cover, and, if 
they come in contact, it is only to recede so much the 
farther from one another." 

I smiled at this excellent simile. I asked about the 
persons in question, and Goethe named them to me, 
with some distinctive remark about each. 

" Jacobi was a born diplomatist, a handsome man, 

s2 



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ECK ERMANN. 



of slender figure, elegant and noble mien, who, as an 
ambassador, would have been perfectly in his place ; 
as a poet, a philosopher, he had great deficiencies. 

" His relation to me was peculiar. He loved me 
personally, without sympathizing with, or even ap- 
proving my efforts ; only the sentiment of friendship 
bound us together. But the beauty of my connection 
with Schiller was, that we found the strongest bond 
of union in our exertions to reach a common aim, and 
had no need of what is commonly called friendship." 

I asked whether Lessing took part in this corre- 
spondence. 

"No," said he, "but Herder and Wieland did. 
Herder, however, did not enjoy such connections ; he 
was too high-minded not to detect their hollowness 
in the long run. Hamann, too, had a tone of supe- 
riority with these people. 

" Wieland, as usual, appears in these letters cheerful 
and at home ; caring for no opinion in particular, he 
was adroit enough to take a part in all. He was like 
a reed, moved hither and thither by the wind of 
opinion, yet always adhering firmly to its root. 

" My personal relation to Wieland was always very 
pleasant, especially in those earlier days when he 
belonged to me aione. His little tales were written 
at my suggestion ; but, when Herder came to Weimar, 
Wieland was false to me. Herder, whose powers of 
personal attraction were very great, took him away 
from me." 

We now, turning homeward, saw towards the east 
many rain-clouds shading one into another. 

" These clouds," said I, " threaten to descend as 



CONVERSATIONS. 



211 



rain each moment. Do you think they would dissipate 
if the barometer rose ? " 

" Yes," said he, " they would be rent and shrivelled 
at once. So strong is my faith in the barometer, that 
I maintained, even in the night of the great inundation 
of Petersburg, had the barometer risen, the waves 
must have receded. 

" You, perhaps, like my son, believe that the moon 
influences the weather, and I do not blame you ; the 
moon is so important an orb, that we must ascribe 
to it great influences on our earth ; but the change of 
the weather, the rise and fall of the barometer, are 
not affected by the changes of the moon ; they are 
purely telluric. 

" I think of the earth and her atmosphere as a 
great living being, always engaged in inspiration and 
expiration. If she draws in her breath, then draws 
she the atmosphere to her, so that, coming near her 
surfaces, it is condensed to clouds and rain. I call 
this state the affirmation of water, (Wasser-bcjahung.) 
Should it continue an unusual length of time, the 
earth would be drowned ; but she expires her breath 
again, and the w r atery vapors are pushed up, and so 
dissipated in the higher atmosphere, that not only the 
sun can pass through them, but the eternal darkness 
of infinite space seems a fresh blue. This state of the 
atmosphere I call the negation of water (Wasser- 
verneinung.) For, as under the contrary influences 
not only water comes profusely from above, but also the 
moisture of the earth cannot be dried and dissipated, — 
so under these not only no moisture comes from above, 
but that of the earth flies upwards ; so that, if this 



212 



ECKERMANN. 



should continue an unusual length of time, the earth, 
even if the sun did not shine, would be in danger 
of completely drying up. 

" The thing is very simple, and I abide by what 
is simple and prevalent, without being disturbed by 
occasional deviations from the general rule. High 
barometer, dry weather, east wind; low barometer, 
wet weather, and west wind ; this is the general rule 
by which I abide. Should wet clouds blow hither, 
when the barometer is high, and the wind east, or, 
if we have a clear sky, with a west wind, I do not 
disturb myself, nor lose my faith in the general rule ; 
but merely observe how many collateral influences 
are to be allowed for, whose nature we do not yet 
understand. 

" I will tell you something which will be of value 
to your future life. There is, in nature, an accessible 
and inaccessible. Be careful to discriminate, with 
due reverence, betwixt the two. He who cannot 
make this distinction torments himself, perhaps his 
life long, about the inaccessible, without ever coming 
near the truth. It is, indeed, hard to say where 
the one ends and the other begins. But he who 
is prudent will labor only on what he considers 
the accessible ; and, while he traverses every part, 
and confirms himself on all sides of this region, he 
will win somewhat even from the inaccessible, while 
he must confess, that only a limited insight is possible, 
in certain matters, and that nature has ever in reserve, 
problems, which man has not the faculties capable of 
solving." 

We had returned before the dinner hour, and 



CONVERSATIONS. 



213 



Goethe had time to show me a landscape, by Rubens. 
It represented a summer's evening. On the left of the 
foreground, you saw field laborers going homewards; 
in the midst of the picture, a flock of sheep, following 
their shepherd to the hamlet ; a little farther back, 
on the right, a hay-cart, which people were busy 
in loading ; the horses, not yet put in, were grazing 
near ; afar off, in the meadow and thickets, mares were 
grazing with their foals, and appearances indicated 
that they would remain there all night. Several 
villages and a town bordered the bright horizon of 
this picture, in which the ideas of activity and repose 
were combined in the most graceful manner. 

The whole seemed to me put together with such 
truth, and the details painted with such fidelity, that 
I said, Rubens must have copied the picture from 
nature. 

" By no means," said Goethe, "so perfect a picture 
is never seen in nature. We are indebted, for its 
composition, to the poetic mind of the painter ; but 
the great Rubens had such an extraordinary memory, 
that he carried all nature in his head, and she was 
always at his command, in the minutest particulars. 
Thence comes such truth in the whole, and in parts, 
that we think it must be copy from nature. No such 
landscapes are painted now-a-days. That way of 
feeling and seeing nature no longer exists. Our 
painters are wanting in poetry. 

ft Then our young geniuses are left to themselves ; 
they want living masters, to initiate them into the 
mysteries of art. Much may be learned from the 



214 



ECKERMANN. 



dead ; but scarcely an insight into the secrets of their 
design and mode of execution." 

Frau and Herr Von Goethe came in, and we sat 
down to dinner. We chatted awhile on topics of the 
day, such as the theatre, balls, and the court ; but 
soon we were led to subjects of more importance, 
and became deeply engaged in conversation on the 
religious doctrines of England. 

" You ought, like me," said Goethe, " to have been 
studying church history for fifty years, to have any 
just notion of this. Observe how the Mohammedans 
educate a votary. They give their young people, as 
religious foundation, this doctrine, that nothing can 
happen to man, except what was long since decreed 
by an overruling divinity. 

" With this they are prepared and satisfied for a 
whole life, and scarce need any thing further. 

" I will not inquire whether this doctrine is true 
or false, useful or pernicious, only observing that we 
all, without being taught, share this faith to some 
degree. 4 The ball on which my name is not written, 
cannot hit me,' says the soldier in the battle-field ; 
and how, without such a belief, could he maintain 
such courage and gayety, in the most imminent peril ? 
What we are taught in our Christian law, 1 No 
sparrow falls to the ground without the consent of 
our Father,' comes from the same source, intimating 
that there is a Providence, which keeps in its eye 
the smallest things, and without whose will and 
permission nothing can happen. 

" Then the Mahommedans begin their instruction 



CONVERSATIONS. 



215 



in philosophy, by affirming that nothing exists, which 
does not suppose its contrary. Thus they practise the 
minds of youth in detecting and evolving the opposite 
of every proposition ; from which arises great adroitness 
in thinking and speaking. 

" Truly, from such habits, doubt may arise as to 
what is truth ; but this doubt will only incite the mind 
to those closer inquiries and experiments, in which 
alone man can find satisfaction. 

" You see that nothing is wanting in this doctrine, 
and that we, with all our systems, have got no further ; 
and that, generally speaking, no one can get further." 

"That the Greeks," said I, "made use of similar 
modes of instruction in philosophy, is obvious from 
their tragedy, which rests upon contradiction ; as not 
one of the speakers ever maintains any opinion, without 
some other arguing, with equal dexterity, for the 
opposite side." 

" You are perfectly right," said Goethe; " and there 
too is doubt, like that which is awakened in the 
observer or reader ; and destiny alone, connecting 
itself with the moral side, leads to certainty at last." 

We rose from table, and Goethe took me with him 
into the garden, to continue our conversation. 

"It is remarkable," said I, " of Lessing, that he, in 
his theoretical writings, in the ' Laocoon,' for instance, 
never leads us directly to a result, but always takes 
us by the philosophical way of affirmation, counter 
affirmation, and doubt, before he will let us arrive 
at a sort of certainty. We are rather occupied by 
the operation of thinking and seeking, than benefited 
by great views and great truths, suitable to excite our 



216 



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own powers of thought, and make our own power? 
productive."' 

•• Yes," said Goethe : ■• Lessing himself said, that 
if God would give him truth, he would decline the 
gift, and prefer the labor of seeking it for himself. 

That philosophic system of the Mohammedans 
is a £ood measure, which we can apply to ourselves 
and others, to ascertain the degree of spiritual progress 
which we have attained. 

•• Lessing. from his polemical nature, loved best the 
region of doubt and contradiction. Analysis is his 
province, as there his fine understanding could most 
aid him. 

You will find me wholly the reverse. I have 
always avoided contradiction, striven to dispel doubt 
by inward efforts, and uttered only the results of my 
mental processes.'" 

I asked Goethe which of the new philosophers he 
admired most. 

•• Kant."' said he. " stands undoubtedly highest : 
his doctrines still continue to work, and have 
penetrated most deeply into our German education. 
He has done his work on you, although you have 
never read him : now you need him no longer, for 
you already possess what he could give you ; but 
if you wish, by and by. to read something of his, I 
recommend to you his 1 Critique on the Power of 
Judgment."' in which he has written admirably upon 
rhetoric, tolerably upon poetry, but unsatisfactorily 
on the plastic arts." 

•• Has your Excellency ever had any personal con- 
nection with Kant ?" 



CONVERSATIONS. 



217 



" No," he replied ; " Kant has never taken notice 
of me ; while my nature led me a way not unlike his. 
I wrote my ' Metamorphoses of Plants/ before I knew 
any thing about Kant ; and yet is it wholly in his 
spirit. The separation of subject from object, the 
faith that each creature exists for its own sake, and 
that cork-trees do not grow, merely that we may 
have stoppers for our bottles, — this I share with Kant, 
and I rejoice to meet him on such ground. After- 
wards I wrote Lehre von Versuch, which is to be 
regarded as criticism upon subject and object, and 
medium for both. 

" Schiller was wont to advise me against the study 
of Kant's philosophy. He said Kant could give me 
nothing ; but he himself studied Kant with great zeal ; 
and I, also, studied him, and not without profit." 

While talking thus, we had been walking up and 
down the garden ; the clouds had been darkening ; 
it began to rain ; and we were obliged to return to 
the house, where we continued our conversation for 
some time. 

Wednesday, 20th June. 

The family table was covered for five ; the room 
was vacant and cool, which was very pleasant in this 
extreme heat. I went into the spacious room next 
the dining-hall, where are the worked carpet, and the 
colossal bust of Juno. 

Goethe soon came in, and greeted me in his 
affectionate and cordial manner : he took a chair, and 
sat down by the window. " Do you also take a 



T 



218 



ECKERMANN. 



chair," said he, " and let us have a little chat before 
the others come in. 

"T am glad you have had an opportunity of becoming 
acquainted here with Count Sternberg. He is now 
gone, and I have resumed my usual habits of activity 
and peace." 

" The appearance and manners of the Count," said 
I, " were very imposing, and not less so the extent 
of his knowledge. Turn the conversation where you 
would, he was every where at home ; always profound, 
masterly, and comprehensive. He is a remarkable 
man." 

" Yes," said Goethe, " he is a very remarkable 
man ; and his influence and his connections are very 
extensive in this country. His Flora Subterranea 
has made him known as a botanist through all Europe ; 
and he is not less distinguished as a mineralogist. Do 
you know his history ? " 

" No," said I, " but I should be glad to hear any 
thing about him. I saw in him the nobleman ; a man 
of the world, and, at the same time, of knowledge so 
various and profound, that I should like to understand 
how so much was effected." 

Then Goethe told me how the count, destined as a 
youth to the clerical station, began his studies at Rome ; 
but, after Austria had taken back certain favorable 
promises, went to Naples, and so on. Goethe told me 
the circumstances of a life sufficiently interesting and 
important to adorn the Wandetjahre, but which 1 
do not feel myself at liberty to repeat here. I greatly 
enjoyed the narrative, and thanked him with my whole 
soul. 



CONVERSATIONS. 



219 



The conversation now turned upon the Bohemian 
schools, and their great advantages, especially for a 
thorough aesthetic culture. 

The ladies and young Goethe now came in, and we 
sat down to table. The conversation was gay and 
varied, but often turned upon the evangelical people 
of some cities in Northern Germany. It was remarked 
that these pietistical separations had destroyed the 
harmony of whole families. 

1 said that I could sympathize with such ills, having 
lost an excellent friend, because he could not convert 
me to his opinions. He was thoroughly convinced 
that good works are of no avail, and that man can 
win favor with the divinity only by the grace of 
Christ. 

" According to the present course of the world, in 
conversing on such topics," said Goethe, " all is one 
puddle ; and perhaps none of you know whence it 
comes — but I will tell you. 

" The doctrine of good works, namely, that man, 
by good actions, and founding beneficent institutions, 
can avoid the penalty of sin, and win the favor of God, 
is Catholic. But the reformers, out of opposition, 
rejected such a doctrine, and declared that man must 
seek solely to recognize the merits of Christ, and share 
in his grace, which really must lead to good works. 
But, now-a-days, all this is mingled together, and 
nobody knows whence a thing comes." 

T was thinking, though I did not freely express it, 
that various opinions in religious matters had always 
sown dissension among men, and that, indeed, the first 



220 



ECKERMANN. 



murder had been introduced by a difference in the 
mode of worshipping God. 

I said that I had just been reading Byron's " Cain," 
and had been particularly struck by the third act, 
* and the rrfanner in which the catastrophe was pro- 
duced. 

"Is it not admirable?" said Goethe. "Its beauty 
is such as we shall not see a second time in the 
world." 

" Cain," said I, " was at first under ban in England ; 
but now every body reads it, and young English 
travellers carry usually a complete Byron with them." 

" It was folly," said Goethe, " for, in fact, there is 
nothing in Cain, which is not taught by the English 
bishops themselves." 

The Chancellor was announced. He sat down with 
us at table. Goethe's grandchildren, Walter and 
Wolfgang, came jumping. Wolf pressed close to the 
Chancellor. 

" Bring," said Goethe, " your Album, and show the 
Chancellor your Princess, and what. Count Sternberg 
wrote for you." 

Wolf sprang up and brought the book. The 
Chancellor looked at the portrait of the Princess, and 
the verses which had been annexed by Goethe. He 
looked further in the book, and seeing Zelter's hand- 
writing, read aloud, Lerne gehorchen, ( " Learn to 
obey." ) 

"Those are the only reasonable words in the whole 
book," said Goethe, laughing ; " as, indeed, Zelter is 
always wise and dignified. I am now looking over 
his letters with Riemer ; and they contain invaluable 



CONVERSATIONS. 



221 



matter. Especially are the letters which he has written 
me on his journeys, of great worth ; for he has, ab a 
skilful architect and musician, the advantage, that he 
can never want interesting subjects for criticism, So 
soon as he enters a city, the buildings stand before him, 
and tell him all their merits and all their faults. 

" The musical societies receive him at once, and 
show to the master's practised eye their virtues and 
defects. If a short-hand writer could but have 
recorded his conversations with his musical scholars, 
we should possess something truly unique in its way. 
In such matters is Zelter great, and hits always the 
nail on the head." 

Thursday, July 5. 

Towards evening, I met Goethe in the Park, 
returning from a ride. As he passed he beckoned to 
me to come and see him. I went immediately to his 
house, where I found Coudray ; and the Chancellor 
came in presently. The conversation turned on 
political subjects — Wellington's embassy to St. Peters- 
burg, and its probable consequence, Capo d'Istria, &,c. 

We talked, too, of Napoleon's times. Coudray 
showed us a drawing of the iron railing with which 
he intends to surround Wieland's grave at Osmannstedt. 

After the Chancellor and Coudray were gone, 
Goethe asked me to stay with him awhile. '* For one 
who, like me, lived in two ages," said he, " there is 
an oddity in this talk about statues and monuments. 
When one is erected in honor of any distinguished 
man, I seem already to see it cast down and trampled 
upon by the warriors of future days. Already I see 

T 2 



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ECK ERMANN. 



Coudray's iron railing about Wieland's grave, shoeing 
the horses of future cavalry. Indeed, I may say that 
I have lived through a similar change in Frankfort. 
Wieland's grave is much too near the Ilm ; the stream 
in a hundred years will have so worn the shore by its 
sudden turn, that it will have reached the body." 

We had some good-humored jests about the terrible 
inconstancy of earthly things, and then, looking upon 
Coudray's drawing, were led to praise the fine English 
pencil, so well adapted both to the delicate and strong 
strokes, that the thought is conveyed immediately to 
the paper, without the least loss. Goethe showed me a 
fine drawing, by an Italian master, of the boy Jesus 
with the doctors ; then he showed me an engraving 
from a picture on this subject. 

«' I have lately been so fortunate," said he, " as to 
buy many excellent drawings by celebrated masters, 
at a reasonable rate. Such drawings are invaluable ; 
not only because they give, in its purity, the spiritual 
intention of the artist, but because they enable us to 
enter into the mood of his mind, in the hour of 
creation. From this drawing of the .boy Jesus, and 
the temple, we perceive the great clearness, and still, 
serene resolution, in the mind of the artist. The arts 
of painting and sculpture have the great advantage 
that they are objective, and attract us, without violently 
exciting our feelings. Such a work either speaks to 
us not at all, or in a very decided manner; a poem 
makes a far more vague impression, exciting in each 
hearer different emotions, according to his acre and 
capacity." 

" I have," said I, " been reading, of late, the 



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223 



excellent romance of 'Roderick Random,' by Smollett. 
It gave me almost the same impression with a good 
drawing. It is a direct representation of the subject, 
with no touch of the sentimental ; the reality of life 
stands before us as it is, often repulsive and detestable 
enough, yet, when made into a whole, giving a pleasant 
impression on account of the decided reality." 

" I have often heard the praises of ' Roderick 
Random,' and can well believe what you say of it, 
but have never read it. I should like to have you read 
Johnson's * Rasselas,' and tell me what you think of it." 

I promised to do so. 

*« In Lord Byron, " said I, " especially in 'Don Juan,' 
I find passages describing objects merely, and giving 
the same feeling with a good drawing." 

" Yes," said Goethe, " Lord Byron was great in 
that; his pictures have an air of careless reality, and 
are as lightly thrown off as if they were improvised. 
I know but little of ' Don Juan,' but I remember many 
such passages from his other poems, especially sea 
scenes, with a sail peeping out here and there, so full 
of life, that you seem to feel the sea-breeze blowing." 

"In his ' Don Juan,'" said I, "I have particularly 
admired the representation of London, which his 
careless verses bring before your eyes. He is not 
very scrupulous whether his objects are poetical or 
not ; but seizes and uses all just as they come before 
him ; even the wigs in the hair-cutter's window, and 
the men who take care of the street lamps." 

" Our German aesthetics," said Goethe, " are 
always talking about poetical and unpoetical objects ; 
nor are they from a certain point of view wrong ; yet, 



224 



ECKERMANN. 



at bottom, no object which the poet knows how to 
use is unpoetical." 

I remarked that Byron was very successful in his 
women. 

" Yes," said Goethe, " his women are good. In- 
deed, this is the only vase into which we moderns can 
pour our ideality ; nothing can be done with the men. 
Homer has got it all away in Achilles and Ulysses, 
the bravest and most prudent of possible men." 

" I wonder," said 1, " that Lord Byron could dwell 
so long on bodily torture, as he must, to write the 
' Two Foscari.' " 

"That," said Goethe, "was Byron's element; he 
was always a self-tormentor. Such subjects were his 
darling theme, as you see in all his works, scarce one 
of which has a cheerful subject. The management 
of this play (the ' Foscari ') is worthy of great praise." 

" Admirable ! " said I ; " every word is strong, 
significant, and subservient to the aim. Indeed, gene- 
rally speaking, I find no weak lines in Byron. I 
think ever I see him issuing from the sea, fresh, and 
full of creative power. The more I read him, the 
more I admire the greatness of his genius, and think 
you were quite right to present him with that immortal 
monument of love in ' Helena.' " 

"I could not," said Goethe, "make any man the 
representative of the modern poetical era except him, 
who undoubtedly is to be regarded as the greatest 
genius of our century. He is neither classic nor 
romantic, but the reflection of our own day. He 
suited me in every respect, with his unsatisfied nature 
and his warlike tendency, which led to his death at 



CONVERSATIONS. 



225 



Missoloncrhi. It were neither convenient nor advisa- 

o 

ble to write a treatise upon Byron ; but I shall not omit 
to pay him honor at proper times." 

Goethe spoke further of ' Helena.' " I thought of a 
very different close," said he, " at one time, but, 
afterwards, this of Lord Byron pleased me better. 
You observe the character of the chorus is quite 
destroyed by this song ; until this time, in the antique 
fashion, it has never belied its girlish nature, but now 
of a sudden becomes nobly reflecting, and says things 
such as it never did nor could think." 

" Certainly," said I, " I remarked it ; but, since I 
have seen the double shadows of Rubens's landscapes, 
and got a better insight into the idea of fiction, such 
things do not disturb me. These little inconsistencies 
are of no consequence, if they are stepping-stones to a 
higher beauty ; since the song is to be sung, and there 
is no other chorus to sing it, let the girls do so." 

" I wonder," said Goethe, laughing, li what the 
German critics will say ! Will they have freedom and 
boldness enough to get over this ? Understanding 
comes in the way of the French ; they cannot believe 
that fancy has its own laws, to which the understand- 
ing does not and can not penetrate. 

" Fancy has not much power where it does not 
originate things which must ever be problems to the 
understanding. It is this which separates poetry from 
prose, in which understanding always is, and always 
should be, at home." 

I now took leave, for it was ten o'clock. We had 
been sitting without a light ; the clear summer evening 
shining from the north over Ettersberg. 



22(i 



ECKERMANN. 



Monday evening, July 9. 

I found Goethe alone, looking at the casts which 
had been taken from the Stosch cabinet. " My Berlin 
friends," said he, " have had the kindness to send me 
this whole collection to examine. I am already ac- 
quainted with most of these fine things ; but now I see 
them in the instructive arrangement of Winckelmann. 
I use his description, and consult him in cases where 
I myself am doubtful." 

The Chancellor came in. He told us a piece of news 
from the Gazette about the keeper of a menagerie, 
who had killed a lion out of desire to taste his flesh. 

" I wonder," said Goethe, " he did not rather try an 
ape ; that would be a tender, relishing morsel." 

We talked of the hatefulness of these beasts, re- 
marking that they were so much the more unpleasant, 
as they were more like men. 

"I do not understand," said the Chancellor, "how 
princes can keep these animals near them, and, indeed, 
take pleasure in them." 

" Princes," said Goethe, "are so much tormented 
by disagreeable men, that they regard these more 
disagreeable animals as a means of balancing the 
other impressions. We common people naturally 
dislike apes and the screaming of paroquets, because 
we see them in circumstances in which they were not 
made. If we could ride upon elephants among palm- 
trees, we should there find apes and paroquets quite 
in their place, perhaps pleasant ; but, as I said, 
princes naturally must drive away one unpleasant 
thing with something still more unpleasant." 



CONVERSATIONS. 



227 



The Chancellor turned the conversation on the 
present state of the opposition, and the ministerial 
party, at Paris, repeating, almost word for word, a 
speech, which an extremely bold democrat had made 
against the minister, in defending himself before a 
court of justice. We have reason once again to 
marvel at the memory of the Chancellor. There was 
much conversation upon this subject, and upon the 
censure of the press, Goethe showing himself, as 
usual, a mild aristocrat, and his friend taking his 
usual ground on the side of the people. 

"I have no fears for the French," said Goethe; 
" they stand upon such a height that intellect cannot 
be repressed. This law can have only a beneficent 
effect, as its limitations are directed only against 
personalities. An opposition which has no limits is a 
flat affair ; but its limits oblige it to become intel- 
lectual, and this is a great advantage. To speak out 
an opinion directly and harshly is only excusable when 
that opinion is perfectly right ; but a party, if only 
because it is a party, cannot be wholly in the right ; 
therefore those indirect means in which the French 
have been such models are the best. I say to my 
servant, ' John, pull off my boots,' and he understands; 
but, if I wish the service from a friend, I must not 
speak so bluntly, but find some pleasant, friendly way 
to ask for this kind office. This necessity excites my 
mind ; and, for the same reason, I like some restraint 
upon the press. 

" The French have always had the reputation of 
being the most spirituel of nations, and they ought 



228 



ECKERMANN. 



to keep it. We Germans tumble out our opinions 
without ceremony, and have not acquired much skill 
in going round about. 

" The parties at Paris would be still greater than 
they are, if they were more liberal and free, and 
understood each other better than they do. They 
stand upon a higher step, in the view of general 
history, than the English ; the opposing powers of 
whose Parliament paralyze one another, and where 
the deeper insight of any individual can scarcely have 
fair play, as we see by Canning, and the many troubles 
which beset that great statesman." 

We rose to go, but Goethe was so full of life that 
the conversation was continued awhile standing. At 
last he bid us an affectionate farewell, and I walked 
home with the Chancellor. It was a beautiful evening, 
and we talked much of Goethe as we went; but, 
especially, we repeated his remark that an unlimited 
opposition soon becomes a flat affair. 

Sunday, 15th July. 

I went, at eight o'clock this evening, to see Goethe, 
whom I found just returned from his garden. 

" Do you see what lies there?" said he; "a ro- 
mance, in three volumes ; and from whom, think you ? 
from Manzoni." 

I looked at the books, which were very handsomely 
bound, and inscribed to Goethe. 

" I know nothing of him," said I, " except his ode 
to Napoleon, which I lately read again in your trans- 
lation, and have admired extremely. Each stanza 
is a picture." 



CONVERSATIONS. 



229 



" Yes," said Goethe, " the ode is excellent ; but 
who speaks of it in Germany 1 It might as well not 
have been translated, although it is the best poem 
which has been made upon the subject." 

Goethe continued reading the English newspapers, 
with which I had found him engaged when I came in. 
I took up that volume of Carlyle's translation of 
"German Romance" which contains Musaeus and 
Fouque. This Englishman, who is so intimately 
acquainted with our literature, had prefixed to every 
translation a memoir and a criticism of the author. 
I read that upon Fouque, and remarked with pleasure 
that the memoir showed much intellect and depth of 
thought, and the critical view was distinguished by 
great understanding, and tranquil, mild insight for 
poetic merits. At one time, the intellectual English- 
man compares Fouque to the voice of a singer, which 
has no great compass, and but few tones, but those 
few good and finely harmonized. To illustrate his 
meaning further, he says that Fouque does not take, 
in the poetic church, the place of a bishop or dignitary 
of the first rank, but rather satisfies himself with 
performing well the duties of a chaplain. 

While I had been reading, Goethe had gone into 
the back chamber. He sent for me to come to him 
there. 

" Sit down," said he, " and let us talk awhile. A 
new translation of Sophocles has just arrived. It 
reads well, and seems to be excellent ; I will compare 
it with Solger. Now, what say you to Carlyle ?" 

I told him what I had been reading upon Fouque. 

" Is not that very good 1 " said Goethe. " Over the 

u 



230 



ECKERMANN. 



sea, also, there are discreet people, who can under- 
stand and treat us worthily. 

" The Germans," continued Goethe, " have good 
heads in other departments. I have been reading, in 
the Berlin Register, the criticism of an historian upon 
Schlosser, which is very great. The signature is 
Heinrich Leo, a person of whom I never heard, but 
about whom I must inquire. He stands higher than 
the French, which is much to say in an historical point 
of view. They stick too much by the real, and cannot 
get at the ideal, of which the German is in full pos- 
session. He has admirable views upon the castes 
of India. Much is said of aristocracy and democracy ; 
but the whole affair is simply this : in youth, when we 
either possess nothing, or know not how to value the 
tranquil possession of any thing, we are democrats; 
but, when we, in a long life, have come to possess 
something of our own, we wish not only ourselves to 
be secure of it, but that our children and grandchildren 
should be secure of inheriting it. Therefore, we 
always lean to aristocracy in our old age, whatever 
were our opinions in youth. Leo speaks with great 
discrimination upon this point. 

" We are weakest in the aesthetic department, and 
may look long before we meet such a man as Carlyle. 
It is pleasant to see that the intercourse is now so 
close between the French, English, and Germans, that 
they can correct one another. This is the greatest 
use of a world-literature, which will show itself more 
and more. 

" Carlyle has written a life of Schiller, and judged 
him throughout as it would be difficult for a German 



CONVERSATIONS. 



231 



to judge. On the other hand, we perhaps appreciate 
Shakspeare and Byron better than the English them- 
selves." 

Wednesday, 18th July. 

" Let me announce to you," was Goethe's first 
salutation at dinner, " that Manzoni's romance soars 
far above all which we possess of the kind. I need 
say to you nothing more, except that the inmost, all 
which comes from the soul of the poet, is absolutely 
perfect ; and that the outward, the drawing of locali- 
ties, and the like, is no way inferior. While reading, 
we are always passing from tenderness to admiration, 
and again from admiration to tenderness ; you are 
always full of one of these powerful emotions. One 
can scarce do any thing finer. Not till this romance 
has Manzoni rightly shown what he is. In this we 
see his inmost being, which he had no opportunity to 
display in his dramatic works. I intend now to take 
up the best romances of Walter Scott, — perhaps 
Waverley, which I have never yet read, — and see 
how Manzoni compares with this great writer. 

" Manzoni's soul appears so elevated, that scarcely 
any thing can approach it. The fruit is perfectly ripe. 
In the management of details, he is as clear as the 
Italian heaven itself." 

"Has he any marks of sentimentality?" said I. 

"Nowhere," replied Goethe; "he has sentiment, 
but is perfectly free from sentimentality ; his feeling 
of every situation is manly and genuine ; but I will say 
no more to-day. I have not yet finished the first 
volume ; by and by you shall hear more." 



232 



ECKERMANN. 



Saturday, 21st July. 

When I came into Goethe's room this evening, I 
found him reading Manzoni's romance. 

" I am in the third volume already," said he, as 
he laid aside the book, " and am receiving many new 
thoughts. You know Aristotle says of tragedy, * If 
good, it will excite fear.'** This is true, not only of 
tragedy, but of many other sorts of invention. You 
find it in my Gott und die Bayadere. You find it in 
good comedies also." 

# * # # ## * * 

" This fear may be of two sorts; it may exist in the 
shape of anxiety, (Bangigkeit,) or in that of alarm, 
(Angst.) The first feeling is awakened, when we see 
a moral evil threatening, and gradually overshadowing, 
the persons about whom we are interested, as in the 
1 Elective Affinities ; ' but alarm, when we see them 
threatened with physical danger, as in Der Freyschutz. 
Manzoni is remarkably successful in making use of 
alarm, which he softens, at last, into emotion, and thus 
leads us to admiration. The feeling of alarm is neces- 
sarily caused by the circumstances, and will be excited 
in every reader ; but that of admiration, being excited 
by the writer's skill, belongs only to the connoisseur. 
What say you to my aesthetics ? If I were younger, 
I would write somewhat upon this theory, though 
perhaps not so comprehensive a work as this of 
Manzoni. 

" I am curious to know what the gentlemen of 
the ' Globe ' will say to this romance. They have 
discrimination enough to perceive its excellences ; and 
the whole tendency of the work would bring water to 



CONVERSATIONS. 



233 



the mill of these liberals, although Manzoni has shown 
himself very moderate ; but the French seldom give 
themselves up to a work with such simplicity as we ; 
they cannot adapt themselves to the author's point 
of view, but always find, even in the best, something 
which is not to their mind, and which the author 
ought to have done differently." 

Goethe then described to me some parts of the 
romance, in order to show me in what spirit it was 
written. 

" Four things," said he, " contribute especially to 
the excellence of Manzoni's works. First, that he is 
so fine a historian, and, consequently, gives his inven- 
tions a depth and dignity which are not usually found 
in romances. Secondly, the Catholic religion is favor- 
able to him, giving him many poetical relations, which 
he could not have had as a Protestant. Then, his day, 
being one of revolutionary ferment, is favorable to his 
writings ; for, if he himself has not shared the troubles 
of such a period, he has seen his friends overtaken, 
often ruined by them. Fourthly, it is in favor of this 
romance, that the scene is laid in the charming 
country near Lake Como, which has been stamped on 
the poet's mind, from youth upwards, till he knows 
it by heart. Thence arises also that distinguishing 
merit of the work — its distinctness and wonderful 
accuracy in describing localities." 

Monday, 23d July. 
When I asked for Goethe, about eight o'clock this 
evening, they said he had not yet returned from the 
garden. I found him in the Park, sitting on a bench 



234 



ECKERMANN. 



in the shade of the lindens ; his grandson, Wolfgang, 
at his side. He seemed glad to see me, and desired 
me to sit down by him. We had no sooner exchanged 
salutations, than the conversation again turned upon 
Manzoni. 

"I told you lately," Goethe began, "that the 
historian had been of great use to the romance-writer ; 
but I find in the third volume, that the historical 
minuteness hurts the poetry. For Signor Manzoni 
throws off, sometimes, his poetic drapery, and stands 
there in historic bareness. This happens in his 
descriptions of famine, war, and pestilence ; in them- 
selves so repulsive, and now made insufferable by the 
circumstantial details of a dry chronicle. 

" The German translator must seek to shun this 
fault ; he must get rid of a large part of the war and 
famine, and two thirds of the plague ; only leaving 
what is necessary to carry on the action. If Manzoni 
had had at his side a friendly adviser, he might easily 
have shunned this fault ; but he had, as an historian, 
too great a respect for reality. This is the reason 
of his putting what is left of the historical material 
in notes to his dramas. Here he could not get rid of 
his historical furniture in the same manner, and a part 
of his work is encumbered by it ; but so soon as the 
persons of the romance come forward again, the poet 
reappears in all his glory, and compels us to our 
accustomed admiration." 

We rose and turned our steps to the house. 

"You will hardly understand," said Goethe, "how 
a poet like Manzoni, capable of so admirable compo- 
sitions, could sin for a moment against the spirit 



CONVERSATIONS. 



235 



of poetry. Yet the cause is simple, and it is this : 
Manzoni, like Schiller, was born a poet. Our times 
are so bad, that the poet can find no nature fit for his 
use, in the human life which surrounds him. To build 
himself up, Schiller seized on the two great subjects, 
philosophy and history ; Manzoni, on history alone. 
Schiller's 1 Wallenstein ' is so great, that there will be 
nothing like it of the same sort; yet you will find 
that his powerful helpers, history and philosophy, have 
injured various parts of the work, and prevented its 
being purely poetical. And so suffers Manzoni, from 
a too great load of history." 

" Your excellency," said 1, " speaks great things, 
and I am happy in hearing you." 

"Manzoni," said Goethe, "helps us to good 
thoughts." 

The conversation was here interrupted by the 
Chancellor, who met us at the garden door. This 
welcome friend joined us, and we accompanied Goethe 
up the little stair, through the chamber of busts, into 
the long saloon, where the curtains were let down, and 
two lights burning on the table near the window. We 
sat down by the table, and Goethe and the Chancellor 
talked upon subjects of another nature. 

Monday, 24th September. 
I went with Goethe to Berka. We drove off soon 
after eight o'clock. It was a very beautiful morning. 
The road is up hill at first, and, as there was nothing 
in the scenery worth looking at, we talked on literary 
subjects. A well-known German poet had lately 
passed through Weimar, and shown Goethe his album. 



236 



ECKERMANN. 



M You would "scarcely believe what weak stuff I 
found in it," said Goethe ; "all the poets write as 
if they were sick, and the whole world a lazaretto. 
All speak of the miseries of this life, and the joys 
of the other ; and each malecontent excites still greater 
dissatisfaction in his neighbors. This is a sad abuse 
of poetry, which was given us to smooth away the 
rough places of life, and make man satisfied with the 
world and his situation. The present generation fears 
all genuine power, and is only at home and poetical 
amid weakness. I have found a good word to plague 
these gentlemen ; I will call theirs the lazaretto poetry. 
The genuine Tyrtaeus vein endows man with courage 
to endure the conflicts of life." 

Goethe's words received my full assent. My atten- 
tion was excited by an osier basket, with two handles, 
which lay at our feet in the carriage. 

" I brought it," said Goethe, " from Marienbad, 
where they have such baskets of all sizes, and am so 
accustomed to it that I cannot travel without it. You 
see when it is empty it can be folded close together, 
and takes up little room. It will, however, hold more 
than you would think. It is pliable, and yet so strong 
that you can carry the heaviest things in it." 

" It looks very picturesque, and even antique," 
said I. 

" You are right," said Goethe ; " it is like the 
antique, not only because so well adapted to its end, 
but because it has so simple and pleasing a form. We 
may indeed say that it is complete in its kind. It has 
been particularly useful to me in my excursions over 
the Bohemian Mountains. At present it contains our 



CONVERSATIONS. 



237 



breakfast. If I had a hammer, I might have an oppor- 
tunity to-day to knock off a piece here and there, and 
bring it home full of stones." 

We had now reached the heights, and had a free 
lookout towards the hills behind which Berka lies. A 
little to the left we saw into the valley, in the direction 
of Hetschburg, where, on the other side of the Ilm, 
is a hill, which now turned towards us its shadowy 
side, and, on account of the vapors of the Ilm, which 
hovered before it, seemed blue to my eye. I looked 
at the same spot through my glass, and the blue was 
obviously diminished. I observed this to Goethe. 
" Thus you see," said I, " what a part the subject plays 
with these objective colors; a weak eye asserts the 
gloom ; a sharpened one drives the vapors away, or 
makes them fade." 

" Your remark is perfectly just," said Goethe ; " a 
good spy-glass dispels the blue tint of the most distant 
mountains. The subject has, in all phenomena, far 
more importance than is supposed. Wieland knew 
this well when he was wont to say, ' One could easily 
amuse people, if they were only amusable.' " 

We laughed at the pleasant meaning of this saying. 
We had been descending the little valley, where the 
road passes over a wooden bridge with a roof, under 
which the rain torrents, which flow down from 
Hetschburg, had made a channel, which was at present 
dry. Highway laborers were using, about the bridge, 
some reddish sand-stones, which attracted Goethe's 
attention. Perhaps a bow-shot over the bridge, where 
the road goes up the hill, which separates the traveller 
from Berka, Goethe bade the coachman stop. 



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" We will get out here," said he, " and see whether 
our breakfast will not relish well in the open air." 

We got out, and looked about us. The servant 
spread a napkin upon a four-cornered pile of stones, 
such as usually lie by the road-side, and brought the 
osier basket from the carriage, out of which they took 
roast partridge, new wheaten rolls, and fresh cucumbers. 
Goethe cut a partridge, and gave me half; I ate, 
standing up and walking about. Goethe had seated 
himself on the corner of the heap of stones. The 
coldness of the stones, on which the night dew was 
still resting, must hurt him, thought I, and expressed 
my anxiety. Goethe, however, assured me it would 
not hurt him, and then I felt myself quite tranquil, 
regarding it as a new token of the inward strength he 
must feel. Meanwhile, the servants had brought a 
bottle of wine from the carriage, and filled for us. 

" Our friend Schütze," said Goethe, " is quite right 
to fly to the country every week ; we will take pattern 
by him, and, if this fine weather continues, this shall 
not be our last excursion." 

I was rejoiced by this assurance. 

I passed, afterwards, with Goethe, a most interesting 
day, partly in Berka, partly in Tonndorf. His 
communications, in which he was inexhaustible, were 
full of the finest thought ; especially he talked much 
of the second part of " Faust," on which he was just 
beginning to work in earnest ; and I lament so much 
the more, that I find in my journal no further notes 
upon the day. 



CONVERSATIONS. 



239 



Sunday, 15th June, 1823. 

While we were still at table, Herr Seidel was 
announced, accompanied by the Tyrolese. The 
singers remained in the next room ; we could see them 
perfectly through the open door, and their song was 
heard to advantage from that distance. Seidel sat 
down with us. These songs of the cheerful Tyrolese, 
with their peculiar burden, delighted us young people. 
Fraulein Ulrica and I were particularly pleased with 
the Strauss and Du, du, liegst mir im Herzen, and 
asked for a copy of them. Goethe was by no means 
as much delighted as we. 

" Ask children and birds," said he, " how cherries 
and strawberries taste." 

Between the songs they played national dances, on 
a sort of cithern, which was laid down on a rest, 
accompanied by a clear-toned German flute. 

Young Goethe was called out. He returned and 
dismissed the Tyrolese. He sat down with us again. 
We talked of the great concourse of people who had 
come together from all quarters to see Oberon ; so 
that at noon it was impossible to get a ticket. Young 
Goethe proposed that we should leave the table. 

" Dear father," said he, " our friends will wish to 
go early to the theatre this evening." 

Goethe thought such haste very unnecessary, as it 
was but just four o'clock ; however, he made no 
opposition, and we scattered ourselves through the 
apartments. Seidel came to me and some others, 
and said softly, and with a troubled brow, 

" You need expect no pleasure at the theatre ; there 



240 



ECKERMANN. 



will be no play; the Grand Duke is dead; he died on 
his journey hither from Berlin." 

A general shock went through the company. Goethe 
comes in ; we dissemble, and talk of indifferent things. 
Goethe called me to the window, to talk about the 
Tyrolese, and the theatre. 

44 You have my box," said he, " and need not go to 
the theatre till six : stay after the others, that we may 
have a little chat." 

Young Goethe, meanwhile, was sending the guests 
away, that he might have time to break the news to his 
father before the return of the Chancellor, who had 
brought it to him. Goethe could not understand his 
son's conduct, and seemed annoyed. 

" Will you not stay for coffee? " said he ; " it is only 
four o'clock." 

But they all declined ; and I, too, took my hat. 

" What, are you too going ? " said he. 

His son excused me, by saying I had something to 
do before going to the theatre. We went up stairs 
with Fraulein Ulrica, while young Goethe communi- 
cated the sad tidings to his father. 

I saw Goethe late in the evening. As I opened the 
door of his chamber, I heard him sighing and talking 
to himself: he seemed to feel that an irreparable rent 
had been torn in his existence : he would lend an ear 
to no sort of consolation. 

"I thought," said he, "that I should depart before 
him ; but God disposes as he thinks best ; and all that 
we poor mortals have to do, is to endure, and hold 
ourselves upright, as we best may, and as long as 
we can." 



CONVERSATIONS. 



241 



The Grand Duchess Mother received the melancholy 
news at her summer residence of Wilhelmsthal. 
The younger members of the family were in Russia. 
Goethe Avent soon to Dornburg, in order to withdraw 
himself from daily saddening impressions, and renew 
his activity amid other associations. 

From France he had received new instigation to 
continue his botanical researches; and this rural abode, 
where he was constantly surrounded by vines and 
flowers, was very favorable to such studies. 

I visited him there, in company with his daughter- 
in-law and grandchildren. He seemed very happy, 
and repeatedly expressed his delight at the beautiful 
situation of the Castle and gardens. 

In fact, he had, from windows at such a height, an 
enchanting prospect. Beneath was the variegated val- 
ley, with the Saale meandering through the meadows. 
On the opposite side, toward the east, were wooded 
hills, over which the eye could pursue, into the 
distance, the retreating showers ; and observe, to equal 
advantage, the eastern constellations and the rising sun. 

" I enjoy here," said Goethe, " day and night 
equally. Often before dawn I awake, and lie down by 
the open window, to enjoy the splendor of the three 
planets, which are at present to be seen together, and 
the gradual irradiation of the clouds. I pass almost 
the whole day in the open air, and hold spiritual com- 
munion with the tendrils of the vine, which say many 
good things to me, and of which I could tell you 
wonders. Also, I write once more poems which are 
not bad. Could it be permitted me, I would fain 
continue to live as I do now." 

v 



242 



ECKERMANN. 



Thursday, llth September. 

Goethe returned to-day from Dornburg. He looked 
very well, and quite browned by the sun. He sat 
down almost immediately to dinner, in the chamber 
next the garden, whose doors stood open. He told us 
of many visits and presents which he had received; and 
seemed to please himself with frequent light jests. Yet 
one who could look deeply into his feelings, could not 
but perceive a certain embarrassment, like one who 
returns into a situation girt about by manifold rela- 
tionships, views, and requisitions. 

During the first course, a message came from the 
Grand Duchess Mother, expressing her pleasure at 
Goethe's return, and announcing that she should make 
him a visit the following Tuesday. 

Since the death of the Grand Duke, Goethe had 
seen no member of the reigning family. He had, 
indeed, corresponded constantly with the Grand 
Duchess Mother, so that they had expressed their 
feelings upon their common loss ; yet the personal 
interview could not but awake painful emotions. 
Neither had Goethe yet seen the young Duke and 
Duchess, nor paid his homage to the new rulers of the 
land. All this was before him now, which, if it could 
not disturb the accomplished man of the world, yet 
must hinder his genius from living on in its natural 
direction and full activity. Visits, too, threatened 
him from all countries. The meeting at Berlin of 
celebrated natural philosophers had set in motion 
many important personages, most of whom would take 
Weimar in their way. This must occasion whole 
weeks of disturbance, such as was always caused at 



CONVERSATIONS. 



243 



Weimar, by visits in many ways so valuable ; and all 
this Goethe foresaw, as he reentered his own house. 
What made this worse was, that the fifth section of 
his works, which was to contain the Wanderjahre, 
had been promised for the press at Christmas. Goethe 
had begun to work over this romance, which originally 
came out in one volume, melting so much new into 
the old, that it might appear in a new edition, as a 
work in three volumes. 

Much is done, but also much to do. The manuscript 
has every where gaps in white paper, which are to be 
rilled out. Here something is wanting to the expo- 
sition ; here is to be found a suitable link to prevent 
the reader from perceiving that this is a collective 
work ; here are fragments of great interest, some 
of which want a beginning, others an end ; so that, 
altogether, there is much to do to the three volumes, 
to give the work attraction and gracefulness propor- 
tioned to its value. 

Goethe had shown me this manuscript in the spring, 
and I had advised him to set aside all his other labors, 
and devote the summer to its completion. He had 
intended to do so ; but the death of the Grand Duke 
had taken from him the tranquillity and cheerfulness 
necessary to such a composition, and he needed all 
his strength merely to sustain such a blow. Now, on 
his return, remembering how little time was left him 
for his work, he naturally felt much embarrassed by 
the disturbances which he foresaw. 

Professor Abeken, of Osnabrück, had sent me, 
before the 28th of August, an enclosure, requesting me 
to give it to- Goethe on his birth-day, and saying it 



244 



ECKERMANN. 



related to Schiller, and would certainly give him 
pleasure. When he was speaking to-day of his birth-day 
presents, I asked him what that package contained. 

" Something very interesting," said Goethe, " and 
which really gave me great pleasure. An amiable 
lady, who once received Schiller at tea, conceived 
the happy idea of writing down all he said. She 
comprehended it well, and related it with accuracy, 
so that, on reading it after so long an interval, one 
is translated immediately into a situation which is now 
passed by with a thousand others as interesting, while 
the living spirit of this one only was caught and 
transferred to paper. 

" Schiller appears here, as always, in perfect posses- 
sion of his elevated nature. He seems as great at the 
tea-table as he would have done in a council of state. 
Nothing constrains him, nothing narrows him, nothing 
draws downward the flight of his thoughts. His great 
views are expressed freely and fearlessly. He was a 
true man, such as we should all be. We others are 
always in bondage to something. The persons, the 
objects that surround us, have their influence upon 
us. The tea-spoon constrains us, if it is of gold, 
instead of silver, as usual. And so, paralyzed by a 
thousand side-views, we do not succeed, if there is 
any thing great in our nature, in expressing it freely. 
We are the slaves of objects round us, and appear 
little or important according as these restrain or 
give us leave to dilate." 

He was silent. The conversation turned on other 
subjects ; but I continued to meditate on these words, 
which had touched my inmost consciousness. 



CONVERSATIONS. 



245 



Wednesday, October 1, 1828. 

Mr. Hönninghausen, from Crefeld, a great merchant, 
and also very fond of natural philosophy, — a man 
enriched with various knowledge, both from travel 
and study, — dined with Goethe to-day. 

He was returning from the Berlin assembly ; and 
much was said on subjects of natural history, especially 
of mineralogy. 

There was much talk also about the Vulcanists, 
and of the various ways by which men formed their 
opinions and theories upon nature. The great natural 
historians, and especially Aristotle, were mentioned, 
about whom Goethe spoke thus : — 

" Aristotle has better observed Nature than any 
modern, but he was too rash in his inferences and 
conclusions. We must go to work slowly and indul- 
gently {lasslich) with nature, if we would get any 
thing from her. 

" When I had arrived at a conclusion in my in- 
quiries, I did not expect that Nature would immediately 
confirm my opinion, but continued to test it by new 
observations and experiments, satisfied if she had the 
kindness occasionally to respond to my wishes. If she 
would not, then I took some other way to pursue her, 
through which, perhaps, I might find her more kindly 
disposed." 

Friday, 3d October. 
To-day, at dinner, I talked with Goethe about 
Fouque's Sängerkrieg auf der Wartburg, which I 
had read, according to his wish. We agreed in this — 
that Fouque had spent a life in studies connected 

V 2 



246 ECKERMANN. 

with ancient German history, without drawing from 
them at last any valuable knowledge. 

" From those old German gloomy times," said 
Goethe, " we can obtain as little as from the national 
songs of the Servians, or other barbarians. We can 
read and be interested about them a while, but must 
at last cast them aside, and let them lie behind us. 
Generally speaking, a man is quite sufficiently sad- 
dened by his own passions and destiny ; he need not 
make himself more gloomy, by looking into the 
darkness of barbaric early days. He needs enlighten- 
ing and cheering influences, and must therefore turn 
to those eras in art and literature, during which 
remarkable men could obtain that degree of culture 
which made them satisfied with themselves, and able 
to impart similar satisfaction to others. 

" But, if you would have a good opinion of Fouque, 
read his Undine, which is really a most charming story. 
The materials are so excellent, that I should scarcely 
say the writer had made all possible use of them ; 
however, Undine will be sure to give you pleasure." 

"I have been unfortunate in the circumstances 
of my acquaintance with the most modern German 
literature," said I. " I read the poems of Egon Ebert 
just after my first acquaintance with Voltaire, and, 
indeed, just after I had been reading Voltaire's little 
poems addressed to individuals, which certainly belong 
to the best which he has ever written. And now, just as 
I was deeply engaged in Walter Scott's ' Fair Maid 
of Perth,' the first work of this great writer which 
I had ever read, I am induced to put it aside, and 
busy myself with Fouque." 



CONVERSATIONS. 



247 



" Against these great foreigners," said Goethe, " the 
modern German writers cannot keep their ground ; 
but it is desirable that you should, by degrees, make 
the acquaintance of all writers, foreign and domestic, 
that you may see how the high culture, which the poet 
needs, is best to be obtained." 

Frau von Goethe came in at this moment, and sat 
down to the table with us. 

" But," continued Goethe, with animation, " do you 
not find Walter Scott's * Fair Maid of Perth * excellent? 
There is finish ! there is a hand ! What a clear plan 
for the whole, and in details no touch which does not 
conduce to the catastrophe ! I do not know whether 
the dialogues or descriptions are the best. 

" His scenes and situations remind me of the 
pictures of Teniers ; in the plan they show the height 
of art. Individual figures have a speaking truth, and 
the least details show the pervading love of the artist 
for his work. How far have you read ? " 

44 1 have come," said I, " to the passage where Henry 
Smith carries the pretty minstrel girl through the 
streets, and round about lanes, home; and when, to 
his great vexation, Proudfoot and Dwining met him." 

"Ah, that is excellent," said Goethe; "that the 
obstinate and honest blacksmith should be brought, at 
last, to take with him not only the suspicious maiden, 
but her little dog, is one of the finest things that are 
to be found in any romance. It shows an eye for 
human nature, to which the deepest mysteries lie 
open." 

" It was also," said I, " an excellent idea to make 
the heroine's father a glover, who has been, and 



243 



ECKERMANN. 



must be, connected with the Highlanders by his trade 
in skins." 

" Yes," said Goethe, " a most admirable idea. 
From this circumstance spring the relations and 
situations most favorable for the whole book, and 
which, by this means, also obtain a foundation in 
reality, and thence an air of the most convincing truth. 
You find every where in Walter Scott a remarkable 
security and thoroughness in his delineations, which 
proceed from a comprehensive knowledge of the real 
world, which he has obtained by life-long studies and 
observations, and a daily acquaintance with the most 
important relations. His comprehensive existence 
corresponds with his great genius. You remember the 
English critic, who compares the poet with voices for 
singing, of which some can command only a few fine 
tones, while others can, at pleasure, run through the 
whole compass, equally at their ease, with the highest and 
lowest note. Walter Scott is one of this last sort. In 
the ' Fair Maid of Perth,' you will not find a single weak 
passage, where you feel as if his knowledge and genius 
were not equal to the utmost demands of the occasion. 
He was prepared to use all his materials ; the king, 
the royal brothers, the prince, the great ecclesiastics, 
the nobles, the magistracy, the citizen mechanics, the 
Highlanders, are all drawn with the same sure hand, 
and finished with equal truth." 

" The English," said Frau von Goethe, " are 
particularly partial to Henry Smith, and Scott seems 
to have intended him for the hero of the book ; but he 
is not my favorite; I like the Prince." 

" The Prince," said I, "wins our affections, indeed, 



CONVERSATIONS. 



249 



with all his wildness, and he is as well drawn as 
any." 

" The passage," said Goethe, " where he, sitting on 
horseback, makes the pretty minstrel girl step upon 
his foot, that he may give her a kiss, is in the boldest 
English style. But you women are wrong always to 
take sides as you do. Usually, you read a book to find 
something for the heart; to find a hero, whom you 
could love ; but that is not the way to read, and it is 
not important whether this or that character please, 
but that the book please." 

" We women were made so, dear father," said she, 
leaning over the table to press his hand. 

" Well, we must let you be in your own lovely 
ways," replied Goethe. 

He took up the " Globe." 

" How the writers in the ' Globe,' " said he, " enhance 
its importance every day ! What men they are ! How 
pervaded with one wish and one idea! People here 
have scarce any notion of such things. Such a paper 
would be an impossibility for Germany. We are 
distinct individuals ; harmony and concert are unat- 
tainable; each has the opinions of his province, his 
city, and his own idiosyncracies ; and it will be a long 
while before we have a standard of common cul- 
ture." 

Tuesday, 7th October. 
To-day at dinner was the pleasantest society. 
Beside our Weimar friends, some of the philosophers 
were there, on their return from Berlin ; among whom, 



250 



ECKERMANN. 



Von Martius, from Munich, who sat next Goethe, was 
known to me. There were jokes and conversations 
on various subjects. Goethe was particularly good- 
humored and communicative. Much was said of the 
opera last given — Rossini's "Moses." They found 
fault with the subject ; both praised and found fault 
with the music. 

Goethe said, " I do not understand, my good 
children, how you can separate the subject from the 
music, and enjoy each by itself. You say the subject 
is miserable ; but you can set that aside, and enjoy the 
excellent music. I do not understand this arrangement 
in your natures; how your ears can be in a state 
to enjoy pleasant sounds, while the most powerful 
sense, vision, is tormented by the absurdest objects. 
And how absurd is this 1 Moses ' ! When the curtain 
rises, there you see the people at prayer. This is very 
unfit. It is written ' When thou prayest, go into thy 
closet, and shut the door ; ' and will you pray on the 
stage 1 

" I would have made a wholly different ' Moses,' 
and begun the piece otherwise. I would have first 
shown you how the children of Israel suffered from 
their vassalage to the Egyptians, in order to bring into 
bolder relief the merit of Moses in freeing them from 
this shameful oppression." 

He then built up his opera step by step, through all the 
scenes and acts, full of life and meaning, in historical 
harmony with the subject, to the astonishment of the 
company, who could not sufficiently admire the 
irresistible flow of his thoughts, and the gay profusion 



CONVERSATIONS. 



251 



of his inventions. 'Twas done too quickly for me to 
seize it. 1 only remember the dance of the Egyptians, 
which Goethe introduced to express their joy at the 
return of light, after the miraculous darkness. 

The conversation turned from Moses to the deluge, 
and took, from the presence of the distinguished 
naturalists, a new turn. 

"If," said Von Martius, " they have found on 
Ararat, a petrified piece of the ark of Noah, why 
should they not find petrified skulls of the first men ? " 

This led to a conversation about the various races 
of men — how black, brown, yellow, and white inhabit 
different climates, and whether all men are descended 
from the single pair, Adam and Eve. 

Von Martius was for the biblical account, which he 
sought to confirm by the maxim, Nature goes to work 
as economically as possible. 

"I cannot agree to that," said Goethe; "I maintain 
rather that Nature is lavish, even prodigal ; and 
it would show more acquaintance with her, to believe 
she has, instead of one single poor pair, produced men 
by dozens or hundreds. 

" When the earth had arrived at a certain point of 
maturity, the water had ebbed away, and the land 
gave signs of green, came the epoch for the creation 
of man. Men arose, through the omnipotence of 
God, wherever the ground permitted ; perhaps on 
the heights first. 

" To believe that this happened, I esteem reasonable ; 
but to attempt to decide how it happened, I esteem 
useless ; and we will leave it to those who, having 



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nothing better to do, busy themselves willingly with 
insoluble problems." 

" If I," said Von Martius, archly, " could, as a 
naturalist, yield to your excellency's opinion, I should, 
as a good Christian, find some difficulty in adopting a 
view which cannot well be reconciled with the account 
given us in Holy Writ." 

" Holy Writ," replied Goethe, " speaks, certainly, 
only of one pair of human beings, whom God made 
on the sixth day ; but the gifted men, who wrote that 
record, had in view their own, the chosen people; and 
we will not dispute the descent of that people from 
Adam and Eve. But we, and tall, slender men, 
handsomer than we, as well as the Negroes and 
Laplanders, had, certainly, different ancestors; and 
this worthy company must confess that we are, at 
present, a quite distinct race from the genuine 
descendants of Adam, and that they, at least in 
money-making, are greatly our superiors." 

We laughed ; the conversation became general. 
Goethe, excited by Von Martius to argument, said 
many interesting things, which veiled a deep meaning 
under a jesting exterior. 

After dinner, the Prussian Minister, Herr von 
Jordan, was announced, and we went into the next 
room to receive him. 

Wednesday, 8th October. 
Tieck, returning from a journey to the Rhineland, 
with his wife, his daughters, and Countess Finkenstein, 
dined with Goethe to-day. I met them in the ante- 



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253 



room. Tieck looked very well ; the Rhine baths 
seemed to have had a favorable effect upon his 
health. I told him that I had been reading Sir 
Walter Scott's new novel, and what pleasure it had 
given me. 

"I think," said Tieck, ' 1 that I may find this 
romance of Scott's, which I have not read as yet, 
the best he has ever written ; however, he is so great 
a writer, that the first you know of him always 
excites astonishment, approach him on what side you 
will." 

Professor Göttling came in, just returned from his 
journey to Italy. I was extremely glad to see him 
again, and drew him to a window, that he might 
tell me what he had seen. 

" To Rome ! " said he ; " you must to Rome, if you 
would make something of yourself! That is indeed 
a city ! that is a life ! that is a world ! As soon as 
we enter Rome, we are transformed, and feel our- 
selves great, like the objects which surround us." 

" Why," said I, " did you not stay longer?" 

" My money, and my leave of absence, were at an 
end. I cannot describe my feelings when I turned my 
back upon Italy." 

Goethe came in, and greeted his guests. He talked 
awhile with Tieck and his family, then offered the 
Countess his arm to the dining-room. We followed. 
The conversation was lively and unconstrained, but I 
could retain little of its substance. 

After dinner, the Princes von Oldenberg were 
announced. We then went up to Frau von Goethe's 
apartment, where Fraulein Agnes Tieck seated herself 

w 



254 



ECKERMANN. 



at the instrument, and gave us the song, Im Felde 
schleich' ich still und wild, with a fine alto voice, and 
so thoroughly in the spirit of the situation, that it 
made an ineffaceable impression on the mind. 

Thursday, 9th October. 

I dined, to-day, in private, with Goethe and Frau 
von Goethe. Rossini's " Moses" was spoken of, and 
we recalled, with pleasure, what Goethe had said a day 
or two previous. 

" What I said, in the good-humored merriment of 
the moment, about ' Moses,' " said he, "I cannot 
recall ; for such things are done quite unconsciously. 
But of this I am certain, that I cannot enjoy an opera, 
unless the story is as good as the music, so that the 
two may keep step with one another. If you ask what 
opera suits me, I would name the Wasserträger ; for 
here the subject is so well managed, that, if given as a 
drama, without music, it might be seen with pleasure. 
Either composers in general do not attach any impor- 
tance to a good foundation, or they have not poets 
suited to aid them. If the Freischütz had not been so 
good a subject, it would hardly have drawn such 
crowds by the charm of the music merely ; and, there- 
fore, Kind should have some share in the honor." 

After talking a little longer on this, we spoke 
of Professor Göttling, and his travels in Italy. 

" I cannot blame the good man," said Goethe, " for 
speaking of Italy with such enthusiasm ; I well re- 
member what my own feelings were. Indeed, I may 
say that only in Rome have I felt what it is to be a 
man. The same elevation, the same blissfulness 



CONVERSATIONS. 



255 



of feeling, I have never known at any after period ; 
indeed, compared with my situation at Rome, I may 
say I have never since known happiness." 

" But," continued he, after a pause, " we will not 
give ourselves up to melancholy thoughts. Let us talk 
of your 1 Fair Maid of Perth. 5 How far have you 
read ? Tell me about it." 

"I read slowly," said I. "I am now at the place 
where Proudfoot, having put on Henry Smith's armor, 
and imitating his walk and whistle, is slain, and found 
in the street by the citizens, who, taking him for 
Smith, raise a great outcry through the city." 

" That," said Goethe, " is one of the best scenes." 

" I have been particularly struck," said I, " with 
Scott's great talent for disentangling confused situa- 
tions, so that all separates into masses and quiet 
pictures, leaving on our minds an impression as if we, 
like superior beings, had looked down, and seen, at 
once, events which were occurring in various places." 

" Generally," said Goethe, " he shows great under- 
standing of art ; for which reason, those like us, 
who always look to see how things are done, find 
especial pleasure and profit in his works. 

" You will find, in the third volume, an admirable 
contrivance. You have already seen how the Prince 
makes, in council, the wise proposal to let the rebel 
Highlanders destroy one another in combat, and how 
Palm Sunday is appointed for the battle. You will 
see with what dexterity Scott manages to make one 
man fail on the decisive day, and to introduce his 
hero, Smith, in his place. It is admirably done ; and 
you will be delighted when you come to it. 



256 



ECKERMANN. 



" But, when you have finished the * Fair Maid 
of Perth/ you must read ' Waverley,' which is quite 
a different thing, and may be set beside the best 
works that have ever been written in this world. 
We see the same man who wrote the ' Fair Maid 
of Perth,' but before he had yet won the favor of the 
public. He therefore collects his forces more, and 
is admirable at every step. In the ' Fair Maid of 
Perth,' the writer holds a more rapid pen. He is 
sure of his public, and his style is broader and freer. 
After reading ' Waverley,' you will understand why 
Walter Scott always designates himself as author 
of that work ; for, in that first published novel, he 
showed what he could do, and has never since sur- 
passed, or even equalled it." 

In honor of Tieck, a very pleasant tea-party was 
given this evening in the apartment of Frau von 
Goethe. I here made the acquaintance of Count 
and Countess Medem. They told me of their having 
to-day seen Goethe, and how happy it had made 
them. 

We had hoped that Tieck would read, and he 
consented to do so. A wide circle was made with 
chairs and sofas, and he read " Clavigo." 

I had often read and felt this drama; but now 
it appeared to me quite new, and made a singularly 
deep impression. It seemed as if heard from the 
stage, only better. Each character and situation was 
given with more entireness of feeling ; it had the 
effect of an acted play, in which each part is well 
performed. 

It would be hard to say what parts Tieck read 



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best ; whether tranquil, clear scenes, addressed to the 
intellect ; whether those in which the powers and 
passions of the male, characters were brought out ; or 
moments of tortured love. For giving expression to 
passages of this sort, he had especial qualifications. 
The scene between Marie and Clavigo still sounds 
in my ears : the oppressed bosom, the stifling and 
trembling of the voices; broken, almost suffocated 
words and sounds ; the panting and sobbing of a hot 
heart, accompanied with tears ; — all this is still present 
with me, never to be forgotten. Every hearer was 
absorbed, and wholly carried away. The lights burned 
dim ; nobody thought of that, or ventured to snuff 
them, for fear of the slightest interruption. Tears, 
constantly dropping from the eyes of the women, 
showed the profound effect of the piece, and were the 
highest tribute that could be paid, either to the reader 
or the poet. 

Tieck had finished and rose, wiping the big drops 
from his forehead ; but the hearers still seemed fettered 
to their chairs. Each man seemed too deeply engaged 
with what had just been passing through his soul to 
have ready suitable words of gratitude for him who had 
produced so wonderful an effect upon us all. However, 
we recovered ourselves by degrees. The company 
arose, and talked cheerfully with one another. Then 
we partook of a supper, which stood ready on little 
tables in the next room. 

Goethe was not present in person this evening ; 
but his spirit and a remembrance of him were living 
among us. He sent an apology to Tieck ; and to 
his daughters, Agnes and Dorothea, two handkerchief- 

w 3 



258 



ECKERMANN. 



pins, with his own picture and red favors, which 
Frau von Goethe fastened to their dresses, so that 
they looked like little orders. 

Friday, 10th October. 

From Mr. William Frazer, of London, editor of the 
" Foreign Review," I received, this morning, two 
copies of the third number of that periodical, and 
gave one of them to Goethe at dinner. 

I found again a pleasant dinner party, invited in 
honor of Tieck and the Countess, who, at the urgent 
request of Goethe and their other friends, had remained 
a day behind the rest of the family, who had set out 
for Dresden. 

At table, we talked much of English literature, and 
especially of Walter Scott. Tieck said that he himself, 
ten years ago, first brought to Germany a copy of 
Waverley. 

Saturday, 11th October. 
The above-mentioned number of the " Foreign 
Review " contained, with a variety of other important 
and interesting articles, also a very fine essay, by 
Carlyle, upon Goethe, which I passed the morning in 
studying. 

I went to see Goethe a little before the dinner hour, 
that I might have an opportunity to talk this over. 
I found him, as I wished, still alone, expecting the 
company. He wore his black coat and star, with 
which I so willingly see him. He appeared to-day in 
youthful high spirits, and we began immediately to 
speak on topics interesting to both. Goethe told me 



CONVERSATIONS. 259 

that he had been looking at Carlyle's article upon him 
this morning, and we were both ready to praise these 
efforts among foreigners. 

" It is pleasant to see," said Goethe, " that the 
Scotch are giving up their early pedantry, are now 
more in earnest, and more profound. When I recollect 
how the " Edinburgh Review " treated my works, not 
many years since, and when I now consider Carlyle's 
merits towards German literature, I am astonished at 
the important step which has been taken towards a 
better end." 

" In Carlyle," said I, " I venerate most of all the 
spirit and character which lie at the foundation of 
his tendencies. He looks to the culture of his own 
nation ; and, in the literary productions of other 
countries, which he wishes to make known to his 
contemporaries, pays less attention to art and genius 
than to the moral elevation which can be attained 
through such works.' 1 

" Yes," said Goethe, " the temper in which he works 
is always admirable. What an earnest man he is ! and 
how he has studied us Germans ! He is almost more at 
home in our literature than ourselves. We can by 
no means vie with him by our researches in English 
literature." 

" The article," said I, " is written with a fire and 
expression which show how many prejudices and 
contradictions he has to contend with in England. 
< Wilhelm Meister ' seems to have been placed in an 
unfavorable light, by malevolent critics and bad 
translators. Carlyle treats them with great tact. To 
the stupid prejudice that no pure-minded woman could 



260 ECK ERMANN. 

read « Wilhelm Meister,' he opposes, very quietly, 
the example of the late Queen of Prussia, who made 
the book her familiar companion, and who was rightly 
esteemed one of the noblest women of her day." 

Some of the guests came in now, whom Goethe 
received. He then turned to me again, and I con- 
tinued. 

" Carlyle has studied that work till he is so pene- 
trated with its merit that he would gladly bestow 
similar profit and pleasure on every cultivated mind." 

Goethe drew me to a window to answer me. 

" Dear child," said he, " I will confide to you 
something which may be of use to you all your life, 
and in many ways. My works can never be popular. 
He who thinks and strives to make them so is in an 
error. They are not written for the multitude, but 
only for individual men whose pursuits and aims are 
like my own." 

He wished to say more ; but a young lady came up, 
and drew him into conversation. Soon after, we sat 
down to table. 

I could pay no attention to the conversation that 
was going on, for I was wholly occupied in thinking 
over those words of Goethe's. 

"Really," thought I, " a writer like him, of so 
high an intellect, so wide a nature, how can he be 
popular ? Only a small part of him can be popular. 
Those songs, which convivial companies or enamored 
maidens sing, are as if they were not for other 
beings. 

" And, rightly regarded, is not this the case with 
every thing extraordinary? Is Mozart, is Raphael 



CONVERSATIONS. 



261 



popular? and does not the world conduct towards 
these great fountains of spiritual life like travellers 
who merely sip a little as they pass ? 

" Yes ; he is right. His works are only destined 
for individuals. They are for contemplative natures, 
who wish to penetrate into the depths, and try all 
the paths of the world and human nature. They 
are for those susceptible of passionate enjoyment, 
who seek in the poet the bliss and woe of the heart. 
They are for the young poet, who wishes to learn 
how to express his feelings, and how to treat his 
subject according to the rules of art. They are for 
critics, who find there a model, not only for the best 
rules of judgment, but for the best means of making 
a criticism interesting and attractive. 

" His works are for the artist, whose mind they 
enlighten as to general principles, and whom they 
teach what subjects are suited to works of art ; what 
he should use, and what leave aside. They are for 
the observer of nature, not only because great laws 
are discovered and taught him, but, still more, as 
teaching a method by which the intellect may best 
persuade Nature to reveal her mysteries. 

" All those who are engaged in science or art, 
may be guests at his richly-provided table, and in 
their works show plainly that they have drawn from 
a great general source of light and life." 

Such thoughts were in my head all dinner-time. 
I thought of individuals, of many excellent German 
artists, natural philosophers, poets, and critics, who 
owed to Goethe great part of their culture. I thought 
of intellectual Italians, Frenchmen, and Englishmen, 



26-2 



ECKERMANN. 



who have their eyes upon him, and who have followed 
his lead. 

All around me were jesting and talking, or partaking 
of the good fare. I spoke now and then a word, but 
without exactly knowing what I said. A lady put a 
question to me, to which I did not render a very 
appropriate answer ; and they all laughed at me. 

" Let him alone," said Goethe. ''He is always 
absent, except when he is at the theatre." 

They laughed at me again; but I did not regard it. 
I felt myself, to-day, peculiarly happy. I blessed my 
fate, which, after many singular transitions, had asso- 
ciated me with the small circle who enjoy the conver- 
sation and intimacy of a man whose greatness I had 
deeply felt only a few moments since, and whom I now 
had before my eyes, in all the loveliness of his personal 
presence. 

Biscuit, and some very fine grapes, were brought 
for dessert. The last came from a distance, and 
Goethe made a mystery of from whence. He offered 
me some of the ripest. 

" Here, my good friend," said he, " eat these sweets, 
and much good may they do you." 

I highly enjoyed the grapes from Goethe's hand, 
drawing near him now both in body and soul. 

They talked of the theatre, and of Wolff 's great merit. 

" Our earlier actors," said Goethe, " learned much 
from me, but I can properly call none but Wolff my 
pupil. I will give you a little instance how thoroughly 
he was penetrated with my principles, and how fully he 
acted out my thought. I was once very angry with 
Wolff, for various reasons. He played one evening, 



CONVERSATIONS. 



263 



and I sat in my box. 1 Now,' thought I, ' thou wilt 
be able to spy out his faults ; for there is not to-day, 
in thy heart, one trace of affection which might speak 
for him and excuse him.' He played, and I never 
turned my sharpened eye from him ; but how he 
played ! how secure, how firm he was ! I could not 
find in him the shadow of a fault, according to the 
rules which I had given him ; and I could not refuse 
to be good to him again." 

Monday, 20th October. 

Oberbergrath Noeggerath, from Bonn, returning 
from the assembly of natural philosophers, was to-day 
a very welcome guest at Goethe's table. Mineralogy 
was the principal topic of conversation, and this 
worthy stranger gave us many valuable particulars 
as to that in the neighborhood of Bonn. 

After dinner, we went into the room where the 
colossal bust of Juno is. Goethe showed his guests 
a long slip of paper, with outlines of the friezes of 
Phigalia, Looking at these outlines we observed that 
the Greeks represented animals less from an obser- 
vation of nature than from conformity with certain 
fixed rules. We found those days inferior to our own 
in subjects of this sort ; and that the goats, oxen, 
and horses, frequently found on bass-reliefs, are usually 
very stiff, ill formed, and imperfect creatures. 

" I will not quarrel with you about that," said 
Goethe ; " but, first of all, we should decide to what 
era and what artists such works belong ; for I could 
instance a multitude of masterpieces, where Grecian 
artists, in their representation of animals, not only 



264 ECKERMANN. 

equalled, but, indeed, surpassed nature. The English, 
who understand horses better than any nation in the 
world, have acknowledged that two antique heads 
of horses are more perfect in their forms than those 
of any race now existing upon earth. 

" These works are from the best era of Greece, 
and, while we are astonished at their beauty, we 
should not so much infer that these artists have 
copied from finer models than we now possess, as 
that they themselves had advantages in their time 
and in their culture, by which they improved on the 
manifestations of nature." 

While all this was said, I stood a little way off, 
looking at engravings, with a lady, at one of the 
tables, and could only, as it were, lend half an ear 
to Goethe's words ; but so much the deeper did 
they sink into my mind. 

After the company had gone, I approached Goethe, 
who stood by the stove. 

" Your excellency," said I, " said, a little while 
ago, that the Greeks exalted nature by the greatness 
of their minds, and I think that we cannot be too 
deeply penetrated with the truth of this maxim." 

" Yes, my good friend," said Goethe, " all depends 
upon this; one must be something, in order to make 
something. Dante seems to us great; but he had 
the culture of centuries behind him. The house 
of Rothschild is rich ; but it has taken more than 
one century to accumulate such treasures. All these 
things lie deeper than is thought. 

" Our good artists, who imitate the old German 
school, begin, while weak as men, and uninformed 




CONVERSATIONS. 



265 



as artists, to copy from nature, and think they become 
something. They stand beneath nature. But he who 
wishes to do any thing great, must be, like the Greeks, 
so highly cultivated that he will know how to raise 
up the realities of nature to the height of his own 
mind ; and to realize that, which, in nature, whether 
from internal weakness or external hinderance, has 
remained an intention merely." 

Wednesday, 22d October. 
To-day at table we talked of women ; and Goethe 
said, " Women are the silver dishes, in which we 
place golden apples. My idea of woman is not 
abstracted from what I have seen in real life, but 
rather inborn. At any rate, it arose in me, I know 
not how. Accordingly, the characters of women in 
my works have all been successful. They are all 
better than they could be found in real life." 

Tuesday, 18th November. 
Goethe spoke of a new article in the " Edinburgh 
Review." 

" It is delightful," said he, " to see the ability of 
the English critics. Very fine properties have taken 
place of the early pedantry. In an article on German 
literature in this number, you find the following 
remark : — 

" ' There are people among the poets who are always 
inclined to select such subjects as are really abhorrent 
to other minds.' 

" How many of our late literati are here charac- 
terized by a single stroke ! " 

x 



2G6 



ECKERMANN. 



Tuesday, IGth December. 

1 dined to-day with Goethe alone, in his work-room. 
We talked on various literary topics. 

" The Germans," said he, " cannot cease to be 
Philistines. They keep quarrelling about some verses, 
which are printed both in Schiller's works and mine, 
as if it were of any importance to ascertain which 
of us really wrote them. Friends, such as we were, 
intimate for years, having the same interests, in habits 
of daily intercourse, and under reciprocal obligations, 
live so truly into one another, that it is hardly possible 
to decide whether single thoughts belong to the one 
or the other. 

" We have made many couplets together ; sometimes 
I gave the thought, and Schiller made the verse ; 
sometimes the reverse was the case ; sometimes he 
made one line, and I the other. Who, but a Philis- 
tine, would care to settle the mine and thine 1 " 

" Something similar," said I, " often happens in the 
literary world, when people doubt the originality of 
this or that celebrated man, and seek to trace out the 
sources from whence he obtained his riches." 

" How absurd ! " said Goethe; "we might as well 
inquire, when we see a strong man, about the oxen, 
sheep, and swine, which he has eaten, and which have 
contributed to his strength. 

" We have, indeed, faculties to begin with ; but, 
for unfolding them, we may thank a thousand influ- 
ences of the great world, from which we appropriate 
what we can and what is suitable to us. I owe much 
to the Greeks and French ; I am infinitely indebted 
to Shakspeare, Sterne, and Goldsmith ; but, in saying 



CONVERSATIONS. 



267 



this, I have not pointed out all the sources of my 
culture ; that would be an endless, as well as an 
unnecessary task. What is important is to have a soul 
which loves truth, and receives it wherever it can 
find it. 

" The world is now so old, so many worthy men 
have lived and thought, that there is little new to be 
discovered or expressed. My theory of colors is not 
entirely new. Plato, Leonardo da Vinci, and many 
other fine minds, have made similar observations ; my 
merit is to have re-discovered, and in a confused 
world spoken out once more the truth." 

******** 

Of Voltaire I said I had yet read but a small 
portion of his writings ; for his little poems to persons 
charmed me so much that I could not leave reading 
them. 

" Indeed," said Goethe, " all is good which is done 
by so great a genius as Voltaire ; only his mockeries 
and irreverence I cannot excuse. But you are quite 
right to give so much time to those little poems ; they 
are among the most charming of his works. Every 
line is rich in thought, clear, bright, and attractive." 

" And we see there with pleasure," said I, " the 
grace and ease with which he sustained his relations 
to persons of such dignified rank and station." 

" Yes," said Goethe, " he bore himself like a 
nobleman. And with all his irreverence, he always 
kept within the limits of strict propriety. The 
Empress of Austria has observed to me repeatedly, 



268 



ECKERMANN. 



that there is no passage in these poems of Voltaire's 
in which he trespasses against etiquette." 

" Does your excellency," said I, '« remember the 
poem in which he makes to the Princess of Prussia, 
afterwards Queen of Sweden, such a pretty declaration 
of love, while he says that he dreamed of being 
elevated to the royal dignity?" 

" It is one of his best," said Goethe, and he 
recited the lines — 

" 1 Je vovs aimais, princesse, et josais vous le dire; 
Les Dieux ä mon reveil ne m'ont pas tout ote", 
Je n'ai perdu que mon empire.' 

" How pretty it is ! And never did poet have his 
talent so completely at command as Voltaire. I 
remember an anecdote of a time when he had been 
visiting Madame Du Chatelet. Just as he was going 
away, and the carriage had even driven up to the door, 
he received a letter from the young girls of a neigh- 
boring convent, who wished to play the 1 Death of 
Julius Caesar,' on the birth-day of their abbess, and 
begged him to write them a prologue. The request 
was too politely made to be refused ; so he called for 
pen and paper, and wrote the prologue, standing, upon 
the mantel-piece. It is a piece of perhaps twenty 
verses ; the thoughts well arranged, the style finished, 
perfectly suited to the occasion, enough, and of the 
best sort." 

" I shall be very desirous to read it," said I. 

" I doubt," said Goethe, " whether you will find it 



CONVERSATIONS. 



269 



in your collection of his works ; it has only of late 
been published, — he wrote hundreds of such poems, — 
and many, probably, still lie hidden in the possession 
of individuals." 

I mentioned reading, to-day, a passage in Lord 
Byron, which showed how much he admired Voltaire. 

" Byron," said Goethe, " knew well where any thing 
good was to be got, and was too wise to neglect this 
great source of light." 

Goethe then repeated some observations which he 
had formerly made upon Byron. 

"I entirely agree with your excellency," said I; 
"but, however great the genius of this poet, I must 
doubt whether the interests of human culture be 
profited by his writings." 

"I think otherwise," said Goethe. "His fearless- 
ness and majesty must cultivate those who admire 
them. We must be careful not to confine ourselves 
too narrowly to what is moral and decorous. All 
greatness helps him who is able to apprehend it." 

Wednesday, 4th February. 1829. 
"I have been reading Schubart," said Goethe. 
" He is a valuable man, and says many excellent 
things, if we can but translate them into our own 
language. His book is chiefly intended to prove 
that there is a stand-point without philosophy — that 
of the healthy human understanding; and that art 
and science have always thriven best independent 
of philosophy, by the free working of man's natural 
faculties. 

"This is water for our mill. For my part, I have 

X2 



270 



ECKERMANN. 



always kept aloof from philosophy. The stand-point 
of the natural human understanding was the one 
I preferred ; and Schubart confirms the wisdom 
of what I have been saying and doing all my 
life. 

" I have but one fault to find with him, and this is, 
that he knows better than he will confess on some 
subjects, and does not show himself perfectly sincere. 
Like Hegel, he would interweave the Christian religion 
with philosophy, where they have nothing to do with 
one another. Christianity has a might of its own, 
lifting up, from time to time, dejected, suffering 
humanity, and in this rises above all philosophy, and 
needs no support therefrom. Neither does the philoso- 
pher need the support of religion to prove certain 
doctrines ; for instance, that existence is prolonged 
into eternity. Man must believe in immortality ; this 
belief corresponds with the wants of his nature. But, 
if the philosopher tries to prove the immortality of his 
soul from a legend, that is very weak, and says little 
to us. To me, the eternal existence of my soul is 
proved, from my need of activity ; if I work incessantly 
till my death, nature is pledged to give me another 
form of being when the present can no longer sustain 
my spirit." 

My heart beat, at these words, with admiration and 
love. 

" Never," thought I, " was doctrine spoken more 
likely to incite to noble deeds than this. Who would 
not work and act indefatigably on to the end of his 
days, if, by so doing, he obtained the surety of an 
eternal life?" 



CONVERSATIONS. 



271 



Goethe had a portfolio brought, full of drawings 
and engravings. After we had looked at some leaves 
in silence, he showed me one from a picture of 
Ostade's. 

" Here," said he, " you have the scene of our good 
man and good wife." 

I looked at the engraving with much pleasure. 
I saw the interior of a peasant's dwelling, — kitchen, 
parlor, and bed-room, all in one. Man and wife 
sat opposite one another ; the wife spinning, the 
husband winding yarn ; a child at their feet. In the 
back-ground was a bed, and very rude household 
furniture and utensils. The door led at once into 
the open air. This picture gave perfectly the idea 
of a happy marriage in a very limited condition; 
satisfaction, content, and the luxury of wedded love, 
were expressed in the faces of both man and wife, 
as they looked upon one another. 

" One feels happier," said I, " the longer he looks 
at this picture ; it has a quite peculiar charm." 

" It is sensuous," said Goethe ; " and, in this 
respect, higher efforts often are wanting. In works 
of this kind, the senses must be moved, or they are 
nothing. In those of a higher ideal tendency, this 
is often lost sight of, and the work becomes dry and 
cold. The time of life has great influence here, 
and the artist should be careful to remember his 
age in choosing his subject. I succeeded in my 
* Iphigenia,' and ' Tasso,' because I had yet enough 
of youthful ardor to penetrate and animate the ideal 
of the stuff into sensuous life. Now, I could not 



272 



ECKERMANN. 



manage so ideal subjects, and must choose those 
where a part of the Work is already done for me." 
# * # * # * # * 

He spoke of the great mistake made by those who 
think, because a fact is interesting in itself, it must 
afford an interesting subject for the stage : — 

" To write for the theatre is a profession which the 
dramatist must learn, and a talent which he must 
possess. Both are rare, and if either be wanting, little 
good can be done." 

Monday, 9th February. 

Goethe talked of the Wahlverwandtschaften. He 
said that a person supposed the character of Miller to 
be meant for him, though he (Goethe) had never seen 
or known him. 

"It must," said he, " be a character true to nature, 
and have existed more than once in the world. Every 
line in that book is taken from my intimate knowledge 
of life ; and there is more in it than can be gathered 
from a first reading." 

Tuesday, 10th February. 
Goethe talked of Merck ; of the state of culture in 
Germany at the time of their acquaintance, and how 
difficult it was to emerge from the so called storm 
and stress period (Stu?'?n und Drang-periode) to a 
higher mode of thought ; of his first years in Weimar ; 
the poetic talent in conflict with reality, which he, 
from his connection with the Court, and the various 
sorts of service demanded of him, is, for his own 



CONVERSATIONS. 



273 



advantage, obliged to encounter ; thence nothing 
poetical of importance produced during those ten 
years; saddened by love affairs; the father always 
impatient of his court life. 

The advantage — that he did not change his place 
of abode, and was not obliged twice to go through the 
same experience. 

He fled to Italy in order to revive his poetic power. 
Superstitious fancy, that he should not succeed, if 
any one knew about it ; therefore observes profound 
secrecy. Writes to the Grand Duke from Rome. 
Returns from Italy with great requisitions upon 
himself. 

Duchess Amelia — a perfect Princess, with perfectly 
natural, human sense and enjoyment of life. She was 
very fond of Goethe's mother, and would fain have had 
her at Weimar, but he opposed it. 

About " Faust. " — " 'Faust' sprang up at the 
same time with ' Werther.' I brought it ^vith me, 
written out on letter-paper, and not an erasure in the 
manuscript, for I took care not to write down a line 
that was not worthy to remain." 

Wednesday, 11th February. 
Oberbau-Director Coudray dined with me at Goethe's 
house. He spoke of the Female Industry School and 
the Orphan's Institute, as the best establishments in 
their kind of this country. The first was founded by 
the Grand Duchess; the last by the Grand Duke, 
Carl August. Much was said, both of the art of 
theatrical decorations, and of road-making. Coudray 



274 



ECKERMANN. 



showed Goethe a sketch for a prince's chapel. Goethe 
made an objection, to which Coudray yielded. 

Thursday, 12th February. 

Goethe read me the lately-composed noble poem, 
Kein Wesen kann zu nichts zerfallen. 

" I wrote it," said he, " in contradiction to my 
lines — 

' Denn alles muss zu nichts zerfallen 
Wenn es im seyn beharren tcill, ' &c. ; 

* All must ever keep dissolving 
Would it continue still to be ; ' 

which are stupid, and which my Berlin friends took 
occasion, at the late assembly of natural philosophers, 
to put up in golden letters, much to my vexation." 

Goethe extolled the character of the great mathema- 
tician, Lagrange. 

" He was a good," said he, " and even on that 
account, a great man. For when a good man is 
gifted with talent also, he works morally for the 
salvation of the world, as poet, philosopher, artist, or 
some other way. 

" I am glad you had so good an opportunity 
yesterday of knowing Coudray. He says little in 
general society, but, among us, you can see his 
excellent mind and character. He had, at first, 
many contradictions to encounter, but has fought 
through them all, and enjoys now the entire con- 
fidence and favor of the court. He is one of the 



CONVERSATIONS. 



275 



most skilful architects of our time. He has always 
relied on me, and I on him. We have been useful 
to one another. If I could but have known him 
fifty years ago!" 

I asked if Goethe had not learned much in Italy 
about architecture. 

" I got the idea of earnestness and greatness," said 
he, " but no skill in application. Building the castle 
here in Weimar helped me more than any thing. I 
assisted and even made drawings for it. I was, at 
least in design, superior to the professional people." 

We talked of Zelter. 

"I have," said Goethe, "just received a letter from 
him, in which he complains that his attempt to give 
the oratorio of the Messiah was frustrated by the 
weak, sentimental singing of one of his female 
scholars. This weakness is characteristic of our 
age. My hypothesis is, that this is a consequence of 
the great efforts made in Germany to get rid of 
French influence. Painters, natural philosophers, 
poets, musicians, with but few exceptions, show this 
weakness." 

" Yet I hope," said I, " suitable music may be 
composed for ' Faust.' " 

" Impossible ! '"' said Goethe. " Those awful or 
repulsive elements are not in the style of the time. 
The music should be like that of Don Giovanni. 
Mozart should have composed for ' Faust.' Meyerbeer 
might, perhaps, do it ; but he is too much engaged 
with the Italian theatres." 

Afterwards, I do not recollect in what connection, 
he said — 



276 



ECKERMANN. 



" The great, the wise, are always in a minority. 
There have been ministers who were obliged to carry 
through their great plans with both king and people 
against them. Let us not dream that Reason can 
ever be popular. Passions, emotions, may be made 
popular ; but Reason remains ever the property of an 
elect few." 

Friday, 13th February. 

Dined with Goethe alone. 

" After I have finished the Wanderjahre" said he, 
" I shall turn to botany again, though I fear it may 
guide me too far about, and at last show itself as an 
Alp in my way. Great secrets still lie hidden ; some 
I know ; of others, have intimations. Somewhat won- 
derful I will to you confide and express. 

" The plant goes from knot to knot, closing at last 
with the flower and the seed. So the tape-worm, the 
caterpillar, goes from knot to knot, and closes with 
the head. Man and the higher animals are built up 
through the vertebrae, the powers being concentrated 
in the head. 

" With corporations it is the same as with individ- 
uals. The bees form a similar scale of individuals, 
closing and perfected in their king. How this is 
managed is a mystery, hard to be expressed in words, 
but I may say that I have my thoughts upon it. 

" Thus does a nation bring forth its hero, who stands 
at the head, like a demigod, to protect and save. 
Thus were the poetic powers of the French concen- 
trated in Voltaire. Such heads of a nation are always 
great in the generation for which they work. Many 



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277 



have enduring life ; but the majority are succeeded by 
others, and forgotten by after times." 
## # * # # 

" One must grow old to have time to look into all 
these matters, and have money enough to pay for 
experience. Each bon mot of mine has cost a 
purse of gold ; half a million of my own money, the 
fortune I inherited, .my salary, and the large income 
derived from my writings for fifty years back, have 
been expended to instruct me in what I now know. 
I have, besides, seen a million and a half expended 
on great designs, by the royal personages with whom 
I have been so nearly connected, and in whose 
measures, failures, and successes I bore part. 

" It is not enough to have talent : to be wise, great 
connections are also needed, that one may see how the 
cards of the time are played, and even assist oneself 
in winning or losing. 

" Without my inquiries into natural science, I 
could never so well have learned man as he is. In 
all other pursuits it is easier to evade exposure of 
weakness. But Nature understands no joke ; she is 
always true, earnest, and severe ; she is always right, 
and all failing and error must belong to man. She 
disdains the inadequate; only to the adequate, true, 
and genuine will she reveal her mysteries. 

" The Understanding can never scale such heights. 
Man must rise through the highest Reason, to approach 
the Divinity which manifests itself in the primitive 
phenomena, (Urphänomenen,) physical and moral, 
behind which it dwells, and which proceed from it. 

" Divinity works in the living, and not in the dead ; 

Y 



278 



ECKERMANN. 



in the becoming and changing, not in the become and 
changed. Therefore Reason, aspiring to the Divine, 
deals with the becoming, the living ; but Understand- 
ing with the become, the already stiffened, which it 
can apply to use. 

" Mineralogy is a science for the Understanding, 
for practical life ; its subject is the dead, which cannot 
rise again, and gives no room for synthesis. 

" The subject of Meteorology, on the contrary, is 
living, what we daily see working and changing ; so 
this science supposes synthesis, only so great an 
accumulation of observations is needed for this, that 
man is not yet prepared. We steer by hypotheses, 
by imaginary islands ; but the proper synthesis will 
probably remain an undiscovered country ; and I do 
not wonder, when I see how difficult it is to obtain 
a synthesis about such simple things as plants and 
colors." 

#* 

Tuesday, 17th February. 

We talked of Goethe's Grosskophta. 

" Lavater," said Goethe, " believed in Cagliostro 
and his wonders. When the impostor was unmasked, 
Lavater maintained — : This is another ; Cagliostro, 
who did the wonders, was a holy person.' 

" Lavater was a truly good man, but subject to 
strong delusions, and not to be depended on for truth ; 
he deceived himself and others. This made a breach 
betwixt him and me. The last time I saw him was in 
Zurich ; and he did not see me. I was coming in 
disguise down an alley ; seeing him approach, I stepped 



CONVERSATIONS. 



279 



aside, and he passed without seeing me. He walked 
like a crane, and therefore figures as such on the 
Blocksberg." 

I asked whether Lavater had a tendency to observe 
nature, as we might infer from the " Physiognomy." 

M Not in the least," said Goethe. " His tendency 
was wholly towards the moral — the religious. That 
part of his book which relates to the skulls of animals, 
he got from me." 

The conversation turned upon the French — upon 
the lectures of Guizot, Villemain, and Cousin. Goethe 
spoke with high esteem of the stand they had taken ; 
saying that they observed every thing on a free and 
new side, and went straight to their aim. 

" It is," said Goethe, " as if, till now, we had been 
forced to reach a garden through roundabout, crooked 
ways ; and now these men have broken a door in the 
wall, and get at once into the broadest walk of the 
garden." 

From Cousin we passed to the Indian philosophy. 

"This philosophy," said Goethe, " has, if we may 
believe what the English tell us, nothing foreign, but 
rather repeats the epochs through which we all pass. 
While we are children, we are Sensualists ; Idealists 
when we love, and attribute to the beloved object 
qualities which she does not possess. Love wavers ; 
we doubt her fidelity, and are Skeptics before we 
think of it. The rest of life is indifferent ; we let 
it go as it will, and end, like the Indian philosophers, 
with Quietism. 

" In the German philosophy, there are still two 
great works to do. Kant did a vast deal, when he 



280 



ECKERMANN. 



wrote the ' Critique of Pure Reason ; ' but the circle 
is not yet complete. Now, some able man must write 
the ' Critique of the Senses and Understanding of 
Man ; ' and, if this could be as well done, we should 
have little more to wish in German philosophy. 

" Hegel has written, in the ' Berlin Yearly Register,' 
a criticism upon Hamann, which I, of late, have 
read and re-read, and must highly praise. Hegel's 
judgments as a critic have always been excellent. 

" Villemain, too, stands very high in criticism. The 
French will never boast another genius to equal 
Voltaire ; but we can say of Villemain, that he is so 
far elevated above Voltaire by his intellectual stand- 
point, as to be able to judge his virtues and faults." 

Wednesday, 18th February. 
We talked of the Farbenlehre. 

" The highest," said Goethe, " which man can 
attain in these matters, is astonishment ; if the primary 
phenomena bring him this, let him be satisfied, and 
forbear to seek above or behind ; for here is the limit. 
But men will not stop here ; they are like children, 
who, after peeping into the mirror, turn it round to 
see what is on the other side." 

I asked whether Merck loved natural history. 

" Very much," said Goethe, "and had fine collec- 
tions. He was an uncommonly many-sided man. He 
loved art also; and, if he saw a fine work in the 
hands of a Philistine who could not know how to 
value it, he used every means to get it for himself. 
In such matters he had no conscience, and would 
cheat in a grandiose style." 



CONVERSATIONS. 



281 



Goethe related some interesting anecdotes of this. 

N A man like Merck," continued he, " will not 
again be born ; or, if he be, the world will model 
him into a very different person. That was a good 
time, when Merck and I were young ! German 
literature was yet a clean tablet, on which one could 
hope to paint good things with pleasure. Now, it is 
so scribbled over and soiled, that there is no pleasure 
in looking at it, and a wise man is not sure he had 
best make any mark upon it." 

Thursday, 19th February. 

Dined with Goethe tete a tete, in his work-room. 

We talked of the alterations which Schiller had 
made in " Egmont," to adapt it to the stage. 

" The Regent," said I, " should not have been left 
out. Not only does her presence impart to the whole 
a nobler character, but the political relations and state 
of the Spanish Court are brought much more clearly 
to view by her conversation with Machiavelli." 

" Undoubtedly," said Goethe. "And then Egmont 
gains in dignity from the lustre which the partiality 
of this princess casts upon him, as also Clara seems 
more lovely when we see that Egmont prefers her 
even to princesses. These are very delicate shades, 
which cannot be obliterated without hurting the 
whole." 

" Then," said I, " when Clara is alone, the male 
parts preponderate too much. The Regent helps 
balance the picture." 

"You judge rightly," said Goethe. "All this I 
carefully weighed when I wrote the piece ; and it 

Y 2 



282 



ECKERMANN. 



cannot but suffer when an important figure is taken 
out. But Schiller had a dash of violence in his 
nature, and acted often upon his preconceived idea, 
without due consideration of the subject of his 
action." 

" You, perhaps, may be blamed," said I, " that you 
suffered him to do as he pleased in so important an 
affair." 

" One is often more indifferent than is right," said 
Goethe. " I was at that time deeply engaged in other 
matters. I cared neither for ' Egmont ' nor the 
theatre, and let them do as they liked. Now, T am 
consoled by knowing that the piece is printed as 
I wrote it, and that other theatres have the good 
taste to play it entire." 

# * * * * * * * 
[Here are omitted some pages on the subject of 

Goethe's " Theory of Colors."] 

* * * * # # * * 

Monday, 23d March. 
" I have found, among my papers," said Goethe, 
" a leaf, in which T call architecture frozen music. 
There is something in the remark ; the influence that 
flows upon us from architecture is like that from 
music. 

" Magnificent buildings and apartments are for 
princes and empires. When a man lives in such, 
he feels satisfied, and asks no more. 

" This is contrary to my nature. In a splendid 
dwelling, such as I had at Carlsbad, I become slothful. 
A decent little room like this in which we are — 



CONVERSATIONS. 



283 



somewhat disorderly-orderly — somewhat in the gipsy 
fashion — is what suits me ; it leaves my inner nature 
free to act and create." 

We talked of Schiller's letters, and how they two 
had daily incited one another to new activity. 

" Schiller," said I, " seems to have felt an especial 
interest in ' Faust ; ' it is pleasant to see how he urges 
you, or, in his impetuosity, would himself continue the 
work according to his own idea. I perceive his nature 
made him precipitate." 

" It did so," said Goethe, " and all men are so who 
lay too much stress upon an idea. He was never in 
repose, and could never have done ; as you may see by 
his letters on 4 Wilhelm Meister,' which he would have 
modelled such different ways. I had enough to do to 
stand my ground, and keep my works free from such 
influences." 

" I have," said I, " been reading this morning his 
'Indian Death Song,' and been delighted with it." 

" You see," said Goethe, " what an artist he was, 
and how he could manage the objective also, when 
it was once before his eyes. I wish he had made a 
dozen such poems as that * Indian Death Song ; ' it is 
one of his very best. And yet — can you believe it ? — 
some of his nearest friends found fault with this poem, 
thinking it was not sufficiently tinctured with his 
Ideality. Yes, my good friend, such things one has to 
suffer from friends. Even so Humboldt found fault 
with my Dorothea, because she took up arms against 
the assailing soldiery. And yet, without that trait, the 
character of the extraordinary maiden, so proportioned 



284 



ECKERMANN. 



to that time and situation, would sink into common 
place. But the longer you live, the more you will see 
how few men are capable of understanding the proper 
law of a production: instead of taking its ground, and 
seeing what it should be, they praise or blame, accord- 
ing as it harmonizes with their own condition. These 
of whom I spoke were the first and best ; so you may 
judge how much the opinion of the multitude is to be 
valued, and how one in fact must always stand alone. 

" Had I not had some solid foundation in the plastic 
arts and natural science, I would scarce have kept 
myself upright; but this was my protection, and enabled 
me to aid Schiller also." 

Tuesday, 24th March. 

" The nobler a man is," said Goethe, " so much 
the more is he under the influence of demons, and he 
must take heed and not let his guiding will counsel 
him to a wrong path. 

" There was something of demonology in my con- 
nection with Schiller ; it might have happened earlier 
or later without so much significance ; but that it 
should occur just at this time, when I had my Italian 
journey behind me, and Schiller began to be weary 
of his philosophical speculations, led to very important 
consequences for both." 

Thursday, 2d April. 
"I will discover to you," said Goethe to-day at 
dinner, * a political secret, which must erelong be 
made public. Capo d'Istria cannot long continue to 



CONVERSATIONS. 285 

administer the affairs of Greece ; he wants one requisite 
indispensable in that position ; he is no soldier. There 
is no instance on record, in which a mere statesman 
has been able to organize a revolutionary state, and 
keep under his control the military and their leaders. 
With the sabre in his hand, at the head of an army, 
a man may command and make laws, secure of being 
obeyed ; otherwise, the attempt is hazardous. Napo- 
leon, if he had not been a soldier, could never have 
attained the highest power ; and Capo d'Istria will 
soon be forced to play a secondary part. I tell you 
this beforehand, and you will see it come. It lies in 
the nature of things, and must happen so." 

We talked again of the French, especially Cousin, 
Villemain, and Guizot. 

" These men," said he, " look into, through, and 
round a subject, with great success. They combine 
perfect knowledge of the past with the spirit of this 
nineteenth century ; and the result is wonderful." 

We then talked of the late French poets, and of the 
terms " classic " and " romantic." 

" I," said Goethe, " should define the classic by the 
word health)/, the romantic by the word sickly. In 
this sense, the Nibelungenlied is as much a classic 
as the Iliad, being equally vigorous and healthy. 
Most modern productions are not romantic because 
they are new, but because they are weak, morbid, 
and sickly ; and the old are not classics because 
they are old, but because they are strong, fresh, 
healthy, and cheerful. If we make this distinction 
between 1 classic ' and ' romantic,' it will be easy to 
see our way clearly." 



286 



ECKERMANN. 



The conversation turning upon the imprisonment 
of Beranger — 

" He is rightly served," said Goethe. " His late 
poems are really immodest and disorderly ; and he 
has deserved punishment from king, state, and all 
peaceful citizens. His early poems were cheerful 
and harmless, well adapted to make a circle of human 
beings gay and happy, which is the best that can be 
said of songs." 

" I am sure," said I, " that he has been injured by 
the society in which he lives, and has said, to please 
his revolutionary friends, many things which he other- 
wise would not have said. Y,our excellency should 
fulfil your intention of writing a chapter on influences. 
The more I think on that subject, the richer and more 
important it seems." 

"It is only too rich," said Goethe; "for in truth 
all is influence, except in so far as we ourselves 
are it." 

" But we can examine," said I, " what influences 
are injurious, and what beneficial, to our natures." 

" That is the difficult point," said Goethe, " to 
decide how far it is best to keep fast hold on our 
natures, and allow the demons no more power than 
is right." 

After dinner, Goethe had a laurel, in full flower, 
and a Japanese plant, placed before us on the table. 
I remarked what different feelings were excited by 
these two plants ; that the sight of the laurel was 
calculated to produce a mild, serene, cheerful mood — 
that of the Japanese plant, one of barbaric melan- 
choly. 



CONVERSATIONS. 



287 



" You are right," said Goethe ; " and great power 
over the mind of man has been conceded to the 
vegetable world which surrounds him. Surely, he 
who passes his life amid solemn, lofty oaks, must be 
a different man from him who lives among the airy 
birches. Yet we must remember that men, in general, 
have not cultivated sensibilities like us, and live away 
busily, without being so much affected by such im- 
pressions. Nevertheless, this much is certain : not 
only the inborn peculiarities of a race, but soil and 
climate, aliment and occupations, combine to form 
the character of a people. Also, we must remember 
that the primitive races took possession of such 
countries as pleased them ; so that the characteristics 
of the country were originally in harmony with those 
of its inhabitants." 

" Look upon the desk," continued Goethe ; " there 
is a paper which I wish you to look at." 

" This blue cover ? " said I. 

" Yes," he replied. " Now, what do you say to that 
hand-writing ? Is it not that of a man who felt himself 
noble and free, as he wrote? Whose do you think 
it is?" 

I looked at the paper with partiality. 

" It is indeed free and grandiose,'''' said 1. " Merck 
« might have written so." 

" No," said Goethe ; " he was not sufficiently noble 
and positive. It is from Zelter. Pen and paper were 
favorable on this occasion ; so that the writing is 
happily expressive of his noble character. I shall 
put that paper into my collection of autographs." 



288 



ECKERMANN. 



Friday, 3d April 

Dined with Coudray at Goethe's house. We talked 
of the new staircase now making in the ducal palace, 
and also of laying out the roads. 

* * * * # * 

Coudray showed Goethe the instructions which he 
had been drawing up for a young architect, whom 
the Board for overseeing the buildings here are about 
sending to Paris, that he may become more instructed 
in his art. Goethe approved them. Goethe had 
obtained the money from the Ministry for the young 
man, and they were now planning how he could get 
most profit from its use. On his return, they thought 
of making him a teacher in the workman's school 
soon to be established, which could not fail to give 
an opportunity to use his talents, and thus open to 
himself a proper sphere of action. The plan was 
good, and I gave it my blessing in silence. 

They then examined Schinkel's plans, with which 
Coudray was pleased. 

They talked of sound, and how to avoid it, and 
of the great strength and firmness of the buildings 
of the Jesuits. 

" In Messina," said Goethe, " when all other build- 
ings were shaken to pieces by the earthquake, the 
church and cloister of the Jesuits remained as | 
undefaced as if they had been built the day before. 
It could not be seen that the earthquake had produced 
the slightest impression upon them." 

From the Jesuits we were led to speak of the 
Catholics, and their emancipation in Ireland. 



CONVERSATIONS. 



289 



" This measure," said Coudray, " may be agreed 
to, but with so many clauses and restrictions on the 
part of Parliament, that it cannot be dangerous to 
England." 

" All preventive measures," said Goethe, " are 
ineffectual in dealing with Catholics. The Papal see 
has interests and means silently to subserve them", 
of which we never dream. If I were a member 
of Parliament, I would not hinder emancipation ; but 
I would have inserted in the protocol, that when 
the first distinguished Protestant head should fall by 
a Catholic vote, I wished them to remember me." 

Speaking again of Cousin, Villemain, and Guizot, 
Goethe said — 

" Instead of the light, superficial treatment of 
Voltaire, they display an erudition, such as, in earlier 
days, was unknown out of Germany. And such 
intellect ! such searching and pressing out of the 
subject ! superb ! It is as if they trod the wine-press. 
All three are excellent, but Guizot is my favorite." 

Speaking on topics of universal history, Goethe 
said — 

" A great ruler needs no means to make him popular 
other than his greatness. If he has striven and 
worked to make his realm happy at home, and honored 
abroad, it matters not whether he ride about in a 
state coach, dressed in all his orders, or in a bearskin, 
with his cigar in his mouth, on a miserable droska. 
He is sure of love and esteem from his people. 

" But, if a prince has not this real weight and 
personal dignity, he had best betake himself to 
religion, and a sympathy with the customs of his 

z 



290 



ECKERMANN. 



people. To appear at church every Sunday ; to look 
down upon, and let himself be looked at by the 
common people, is the best means of becoming popular 
which can be recommended to a young sovereign, and 
one which Napoleon, at the height of his greatness, 
did not disdain." 

Speaking again of the Catholics, it was remarked 
how great the influence of the ecclesiastics is, though 
used in silence. It was observed that a young writer 
of Henault having of late made merry with the rosary 
in a periodical which he edited, the paper was imme- 
diately bought up through the influence of the priests 
in their dioceses. 

"An Italian translation of my 'Werther,'" said 
Goethe, "appeared at Milan. Not a single copy of it 
was to be had a very short time after. The bishop had 
bought up the whole edition. I was not vexed, but 
pleased by the sagacity he showed in seeing that 
4 Werther ' was a bad book for the Catholics, and in 
taking such effective measures quietly to suppress it." 

Sunday, 5th April. 
Goethe said he had driven out to Belvidere this 
morning, to look at Coudray's new staircase, and 
was much pleased with it ; also that a great petrified 
log had been sent him, which he should like to 
show me. 

" Such petrified trunks," said he, " are found about 
the fifty-first degree, here and in America, round 
about the earth like a girdle. With all these wonders, 
we have no idea of the early organization of the 
earth, and I cannot blame Herr von Buch for trying to 



CONVERSATIONS. 



291 



spread his theory. He knows nothing ; but nobody 
knows more, and it is something to have even a 
plausible appearance of reason on such subjects." 
This morning he read me the little poem — 

" Cupido, loser, eigensinniger Knabe." 

*■ * # * 
He spoke of a lately-published book about Napo- 
leon, written by one who had known that hero in his 
youth. 

" It is a dry book," said he, " written without any 
enthusiasm ; but it shows how grand the truth would 
seem, if it were properly told." 

He spoke of a tragedy by one of our young writers, 
as " a pathological product," and said — 

" The juices are not advantageously distributed. 
The subject is good ; but I did not find the scenes which 
I looked for, while others, which I did not expect, 
are worked out with love and diligence. It is patho- 
logical or romantic, according to our late definition." 

We had more pleasant chat, and Goethe entertained 
me with honey and some dates. 

Monday, 6th April. 

Goethe gave me a letter from Egon Ebert, which 
I read with pleasure. We said much in praise of 
Ebert, and of Bohemia, remembering also Professor 
Zauper with love. 

u Bohemia is a peculiar country," said Goethe, "and 
was always a favorite of mine. The culture of the 
Bohemian literati retains more clearness and purity 



292 



ECKERMANN. 



than that of Northern Germany. Here every dunce 
writes, without any regard to moral basis or high 
views." 

Goethe spoke of Ebert's lately-written epic, and 
of the female rule of early days in Bohemia, whence 
comes the Saga of the Amazons; also, of the epic 
of another poet, who has taken great pains to get 
favorable notices of his work from the newspapers. 

" Such notices," said Goethe, " did appear here and 
there. Then comes the ' Halle Literary Gazette,' and 
tells the exact truth about the poem, and nullifies all 
that the others had done for it. Truth will out now-a- 
days; the public cannot any longer be imposed upon." 

" I wonder," said I, " that a man can care enough 
for a little fame, to stoop to falsities to obtain it." 

" Dear child," said Goethe, " fame is no despicable 
matter. Napoleon, for the sake of a great name, broke 
in pieces almost half a world." 

He told me more of the new book about Napoleon, 
adding — 

" The power of truth is great. Each cloud, each 
illusion which historians, journalists, and poets have 
conjured up about Napoleon, vanishes before the 
terrible reality of this book ; but the hero looks no 
less than before ; rather he grows in stature as we see 
him more truly." 

" His personal influence," said I, " must have been 
magical, that men would suffer themselves to be so 
drawn to him, and wholly governed by him." 

" Certainly," said Goethe, " his personal influence 
was great. Yet the chief reason was, that men under 
him were sure of attaining their object. They were 



CONVERSATIONS. 



293 



drawn towards him, as they always are to him who 
gives them this certainty, as actors are towards the 
manager, on whom they can depend to assign them 
good parts. 'Tis an old story constantly repeated ; for 
human nature is so constituted that no man serves 
another disinterestedly, but does it willingly, if thereby 
he can also serve himself. Napoleon knew men 
well ; he knew how to make proper use of their weak- 
nesses." 

The conversation turned upon Zelter. 

" You know," said Goethe, " that Zelter has 
received the Prussian Order. But he has no coat 
of arms, yet, from his large family, may hope a contin- 
uance of his name. I have taken the whim to make 
him a coat of arms. Here it is on paper." 

The arms looked very stately, and I could not but 
praise the invention. In the lower field were the 
battlements of a city wall, intimating that Zelter had 
been, in early days, a skilful mason. Thence rises a 
winged horse, indicating his genius and aspirations. 
Above was a lyre, over which shone a star, symbol 
of the art by which the excellent friend, under the 
influence and protection of favoring stars, had won 
his fame. Beneath was annexed the Order which his 
king, in recognition of his great merits, had bestowed 
upon him. 

"I have had an engraving made from it by Facius," 
said Goethe, " which you shall see. Is it not pleasant 
to make a coat of arms for a friend, and thus, as 
it were, bestow nobility upon him 1 " 

* * ## 

We spoke of the poem " Cupido, loser," &c. I 

Z2 



294 



ECKERMANN. 



observed it made upon me the impression of a Flemish 
picture. 

" Yet it could not be painted," said Goethe. 

" It is," said I, " a fine instance of poetry verging 
as nearly on painting as is possible, without going out 
of its own sphere. Such poems are to me the dearest ; 
inspiring both contemplation and feeling. But I 
hardly understand how you could obtain the feeling 
of such a situation; the poem is as if from another 
time and another world." 

" I could not," said Goethe, " have written such 
another, and know not how it came to me, as often 
happens about such matters." 

"One peculiarity of this poem," said I, " is, that it 
produces the effect of rhyme, though it is not in rhyme. 
Why is this?" 

" 'Tis the rhythm," he replied. " The lines, begin- 
ning with an accented syllable, proceed in trochees till 
the dactyle near the close, which gives them a sad, 
bewailing character." 

He took a pencil, and divided the line — 

" Von I meinem \ breiten \ Läger \ bin ich ver \ trieben." 

We then talked of rhythm in general, and came to 
the conclusion that no certain rules can be laid down 
upon the subject. 

" The measure," said Goethe, " flows spontaneously 
from the mood of the poet. All would be spoiled 
if he thought about it while writing the poem." 

He spoke again of Guizot — 

" I am going on with his Lectures, and continue to 



CONVERSATIONS. 



295 



find them excellent. I know no historian more 
profound or more penetrating. For instance, what 
influence certain religious opinions, such as those 
upon grace and good works, have had upon certain 
epochs, is shown us with the utmost clearness; also, 
the enduring life of Roman law, which, like a diving 
duck, would hide itself from time to time, but was 
never quite lost, and sure to reappear, is well set 
forth ; on which occasion, we may again thank our 
excellent Savigny. 

" I was particularly struck by what he says of the 
Germans, in speaking of the influence which other 
nations exercised on his in former times. 

" ' The Germans,' says he, ' brought us the idea 
of personal freedom, which was possessed by that 
nation more than any other.' 

" Is not that good 1 He is perfectly right ; and it is 
this idea which works upon us still. The Reformation 
is as much attributable to this cause as the Burschen 
conspiracy on the Wartburg — wise as well as foolish 
enterprises. The motley hues of our literature ; the 
thirst of our poets for originality, and the belief of 
each one that he must strike out a new path; the 
separation and isolation observable among our learned 
men, each one standing by himself, and drawing out 
his thread from a point of his own, — all this comes 
from one source. 

" The French and English keep more together, 
and modify one another's tendencies far more. They 
harmonize in dress and manners ; indeed, fear to differ 
widely from one another, lest there should be some- 



296 ECKERMANN. 

thing to excite ridicule. The German never thinks 
of others, but suits himself ; and from this love of 
personal freedom comes indeed much that is excellent, 
but also much absurdity." 

Tuesday, 7th April. 

I found Hofrath Meyer, who has been ill of late, 
at table with Goethe to-day, and was rejoiced to see 
him so much better. They spoke of things relating 
to art, — of Peel, who has of late established himself 
in Meyer's good graces by giving four thousand pounds 
for a Claude Lorraine. 

The newspapers were brought, and the question 
of emancipation in Ireland came up again. 

" It is instructive," said Goethe, " to see how things 
come up on this occasion, whose existence was not 
suspected, and would never have been spoken of, but 
for the present crisis. We cannot get a clear notion 
of the present state of Ireland ; the materials are too 
much entangled. But this we can see, that she suffers 
from evils which will not be removed by emancipation. 
If it has been unfortunate that Ireland must endure 
those evils alone, it is now unfortunate that England 
is engaged with her. Then, no confidence can be put 
in the Catholics. We see with what difficulty the two 
million of Protestants have kept their ground hitherto 
against the five million of Catholics ; how, for in- 
stance, the Protestant, farmer has been pressed, tricked, 
and tormented by his Catholic neighbors. The 
Catholics, though they do not agree among themselves, 
will always unite against a Protestant. They are like 



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a pack of hounds, who will be biting one another until 
a stag comes in view, when they all unite to run it 
down." 

From Ireland we passed to the affairs of Turkey. 
Surprise was expressed that the great power of Russia 
did not effect more in the late campaign. 

" The means provided," said Goethe, " were in- 
adequate, and therefore overgreat requisitions were 
made upon individuals ; this produced great deeds 
and individual sacrifices, but which were of little 
avail to the cause." 

" It may be," said Meyer, " that the locality presents 
peculiar difficulties. We see, in the earliest times, 
that, if an enemy attempted to enter any where on 
that side, from the Danube to the northern mountains, 
he always encountered the most obstinate resistance, 
and almost invariably failed. Could the Russians 
only keep the sea-side open, and furnish themselves 
with stores in that way ! " 

" That may be done yet," said Goethe. " I am 
reading Napoleon's campaign in Egypt. What is 
related by his every-day companion, Bourrienne, de- 
stroys the romantic cast of many scenes, and displays 
the facts in naked and sublime truth. It is evident 
that he went upon this expedition merely to fill out 
an epoch when he could not be doing any thing in 
France to pave his way to supreme power. He was 
at first undecided what to do ; he visited all the 
harbors on the Atlantic coast, to inspect the fleets, 
and see whether an expedition against England were 
practicable. He found it was not, and then decided 
on going to Egypt." 



293 



ECKERMANN. 



" It is surprising," said I, " how Napoleon, at that 
early age, could play with the great affairs of the 
world as easy and secure as if familiarized to them 
by many years' practice and experience." 

" That, dear child," said Goethe, " is inborn with 
great geniuses. Napoleon managed the world as 
Hummel manages his harpsichord; we understand 
the skill of neither, though the whole is done before 
our eyes. Napoleon was in this especially great — 
that he was at all hours the same. Before and during 
a battle, after victory or defeat, he stood always firm, 
was always clear and decided what to do. He was 
always in his element, and equal to each situation, 
and each moment, just as Hummel is to an adagio or 
allegro, bass or treble. This facility we find wherever 
is real talent, in peace or war ; at the harpsichord, 
or behind the cannon. 

" We see, by this book, how many fables have been 
invented about the Egyptian campaign. Some anec- 
dotes are corroborated, but most of them contradicted. 
It is true that he had eight hundred Turkish prisoners 
shot; but it was in conformity with the deliberate 
judgment of a council of war that nothing else could 
be done with them. It is not true that he descended 
into the Pyramids. He stood at ease on the outside, 
while others descended, and told him, on their return, 
what they had seen. He was not in the habit of 
wearing the Eastern dress. He put it on once at home, 
and wore it among his followers, to see how he liked 
it. But the turban does not suit such long heads, 
and he laid it aside. 

" He really visited those sick of the plague, and, 



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indeed, in order to prove that the man who could 
vanquish fear, was proof against the plague also. And 
he was right ! I could instance a similar passage in 
my own life, where I was exposed to infection from 
putrid fever, and warded it off by force of will. It is 
incredible what power the moral will has in such 
cases. It penetrates, as it were, the body, and puts it 
into a state of activity which repels all hurtful influ- 
ences. Fear, on the other hand, induces a state of 
indolent weakness and susceptibility, which makes it 
easy for the foe to take possession of us. This 
Napoleon knew well, and he felt that he risked nothing 
in setting his army an example so imposing." 

" But," continued he, gayly, " pay your respects. 
See what book Napoleon carried in his field library — 
my ' Werther ! ' " 

" He showed at Erfurt," said I, " how faithfully he 
had studied it." 

" He had studied it as the judge does his Acts," said 
Goethe, " and talked with me conformably about it. 
Bourrienne gives a list of the books which Napoleon 
took to Egypt, among which is ' Werther.' What is 
worth noticing in this list, is the manner in which the 
works are classed, under different rubrics. Under the 
head Politique we find mentioned the Old Testament, 
the New Testament, the Koran ; from which we may 
judge what Napoleon's view was on religious matters." 

He told us many other interesting passages from the 
book. Among others, we talked of Napoleon's passing 
with his army through the narrow part of the Red 
Sea, at time of ebb ; but that the flood returned before 
they had got through, so that the last men waded up 



300 



ECKERMANN. 



to their waists in water, and had like to have come to 
the same end as Pharaoh's followers. This led Goethe 
to speak of the rise of the flood. He compared it with 
that of the clouds, which come not from afar, but arise 
at once in various parts, and pass off in the same 
manner. 

Wednesday, 8th April. 

Goethe received me with a cheerful air. 

" From whence, and from whom, think you," said 
he, "I have received a letter? From Rome — from 
the King of Bavaria." 

" I sympathize in the pleasure you feel," said I. 
"And is it not odd? Not an hour since, during my 
walk, I had many thoughts about the King of Ba- 
varia; and now I receive this pleasant intelligence 
from you." 

" Our minds often give us intimations of that sort," 
said Goethe. " Here is the letter ; sit down and 
read it." 

I took the letter, Goethe the newspaper, and I read 
undisturbed the royal words. The letter was dated 
Rome, 26th March, 1829; written in a very legible 
and dignified hand. The King told Goethe that he had 
bought an estate in Rome, the Villa di Malta, with 
the adjacent gardens in the neighborhood of the Villa 
Ludovisi, in the north-west part of the city. It stands 
upon a hill, which gives him a full view over all 
Rome, and towards the north-east of St. Peter's. 

" It is a prospect," he writes, " to enjoy which one 
would travel a long way, and which I have at my 
command every hour, from the windows of my house." 



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301 



He goes on to express his joy at being so advanta- 
geously settled in Rome. 

" I had not," he continues, " seen Rome for twelve 
years, and longed for it with the impatience of a lover ; 
but now I shall be able to return with that feeling of 
tranquil happiness with which one visits a beloved 
friend." 

He spoke of the magnificent treasures of art, and 
the edifices, with the animation of a connoisseur who 
has at heart the interests of the truly beautiful, and 
who keenly feels every sin against good taste. The 
letter throughout had a beautiful humanity of feeling 
and expression, such as we do not ordinarily expect 
from persons of so high rank. I mentioned this to 
Goethe. 

*' You see in it," he replied, " a monarch whose 
royal dignity has not destroyed the beautiful feelings 
natural to him as a man — a rare phenomenon, and to 
be rejoiced at when seen." 

I read other fine passages from the letter. 

" Here in Rome," he writes, "I refresh myself after 
the cares of a throne ; Art, Nature, are my daily 
delight ; artists are my table companions." 

He mentions how often he thinks of Goethe y in 
passing by the house where he once lived. Some 
passages were quoted from the Romish elegies, which 
showed that the King treasures them in his memory, 
and probably reads them again on the spot where they 
were written. 

" He loves those elegies," said Goethe, " and has 
teazed me much to know how far they are matter 
of fact ; because those poems have so attractive an 

A A 



/ 



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ECKERMANN. 



air, it seems as if there must be something in the 
incidents. Few people can realize that the poet is 
usually prompted to his highest efforts by slight 
occasions. 

" I wish," continued he, " that I had the King's 
poems by me, that I might allude to them in my 
answer. I should think they were good, to judge from 
the little I have read. In form and mode of treatment 
he resembles Schiller, and, if he has put high thoughts 
into so fine a vase, the result must be good." 

He bade the servant spread out the large engraving 
of Rome in the next room, that he might show me the 
King's villa. I felt much obliged to him. While this 
was doing, we talked over Claudine von Villa Bella, 
&LC ; praised the music, which is by Reichardt. 

" He has," said Goethe, " been especially successful 
with Ciqrido, loser" &,c. 

" This song," I remarked, " throws me into a 
pleasant, dreamy mood." 

" It should do so," said Goethe, " for it was born 
of such a one." 

Frederic came and told us that the engraving was 
ready. We went in. Goethe soon found the Villa 
Ludovisi, and, near it, the Villa di Malta. 

" See," said he, " what a superb situation ! The 
whole city is spread out before him, and the hill is so 
high, that he can see quite over the buildings towards 
south and east. I have often visited this villa, and en- 
joyed the view from the windows. Here, where the city 
extends out towards the north-east beyond the Tiber, 
you see St. Peter's and the Vatican. The long road 
which enters the city by the Porta del Popolo comes 



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303 



from Germany. I lived in one of these streets near 
the gate, in a corner house. They show another in 
Rome as the place where I lived ; but it is no matter : 
these things are, at bottom, quite indifferent, and we 
must let tradition take its course." 

We returned into the dining-room. 

" The Chancellor," said I, " would enjoy that 
letter." 

" He shall see it," said Goethe. 

" When I am reading in the Paris newspapers the 
debates of the Chambers, I think always how truly 
the Chancellor would be in his place there. Not only 
wisdom is required for that element, but an inclination 
for and a pleasure in speaking ; both of which are 
united in our Chancellor. Napoleon liked to speak ; 
when he had no proper opportunity, he wrote or 
dictated. Blucher, too, liked it ; he spoke well and 
with emphasis; he had cultivated his talent at the 
theatre. Our Grand Duke liked it, though he was by 
nature laconic. When he could not speak, he wrote. 
He has prepared many laws, many treaties, generally 
very well ; only princes have not time or quiet to 
obtain the necessary knowledge of details. In his 
later days he issued an order about paying for the 
restoration of pictures; and, princelike, he had made 
a mathematical calculation for paying by the foot. If 
the restored picture hold four square feet, pay four 
dollars ; if twelve feet, twelve dollars. This was like 
a prince, but not like an artist; for a twelve-foot 
picture may be in such a state, that it can be cleaned 
jn a day, while a four-foot picture may require a week. 



304 ECKERMANN. 

But princes, like good military men, are fond of 
mathematical arrangements." 
We talked of Art. 

" I possess drawings," said he, " after pictures by 
Raphael and Dominichino, which called from Meyer 
this valuable observation : — 

" ' The drawings,' said Meyer, ' do not show great 
practice of hand ; but it is evident that whoever made 
them had a delicate and just feeling about the pictures 
which lay before him, which has passed into the 
drawing, and brings the originals faithfully before the 
soul. If an artist of our day should copy these same 
pictures, his drawing would be more correct, and 
better finished ; but he would probably want this true 
feeling of the originals, and we should not get from 
him, by any means, so correct or full an idea of 
Raphael or Dominichino.' 

" Is not that good ? And the same may be said 
of translations. Voss, for instance, has certainly made 
an excellent translation from Homer ; yet, I am in- 
clined to think, a more naive and faithful representa- 
tion of the original might have been given by one 
not in all respects so masterly." 

* # # # * # # # 

Friday, 10th April. 

" While we are waiting for our soup, I will provide 
you with refreshment for your eyes." 

With these friendly words, Goethe placed before 
me a volume, containing landscapes by Claude 
Lorraine. 



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I had never before seen any productions of this 
great master. The impression they made upon me 
was extraordinary ; and my surprise and rapture rose 
with every leaf I turned over. 

The power of the shadowy masses on either side, 
the splendid sun-light streaming from the back-ground, 
and its reflection in the water, producing so clear and 
decisive an impression, struck me like the always- 
recurring maxims upon art of the great masters. 
I also was delighted to find each picture a little 
world by itself, in which every part harmonized with 
and enhanced the ruling thought. Whether it was a 
harbor with vessels at anchor, active fishermen and 
magnificent buildings on the water's edge, or a lonely, 
barren hill-country, with its grazing goats, little brook 
and bridge, a few low bushes, and a shady tree, under 
which a shepherd was amusing himself with his pipe, 
or low moorlands with the standing pools, which, 
under powerful summer heat, give so pleasant an 
impression of coolness, — each picture was by itself, 
and at one with itself ; no trace of any thing foreign 
to its element was to be seen in it. 

" Here you see, for once, a complete man," said 
Goethe. " Beautiful were his thoughts and feelings, 
and in his mind lay a world, such as you will not 
easily find elsewhere. The pictures have the highest 
truth, not the truth of actual life. Claude Lorraine 
knew the real world by heart, but used it only as 
means to express the world of his fair soul. That 
is the true Ideality, so to use the means afforded by 
the actual world, that the truth evolved may at first 
appear to be actual too." 



306 



ECKERMANN. 



" Those are good words," said I, " and would apply 
as well to poetry as to the plastic arts." 

" Even so," replied Goethe. " Meanwhile, you had 
better defer further enjoyment of the admirable Claude 
till after dinner ; for the pictures are too good to look 
at many of them at once." 

* * * * # » * . . * 

" Here," said Goethe, " you will see in the Gazette 
a poem addressed to the King of Bavaria." 

I read it to myself. 

"What think you of it?" said he. 

" They are," I replied, " the feelings of a Dilettant, 
who has more good-will than talent, and to whom the 
high state of literature presents language ready made, 
which sings and rhymes for him, while he imagines 
that he himself is speaking." 

" You are perfectly right," said he ; "I also think 
it a very weak production. It bears no trace of 
observation of any thing external ; it is wholly mental, 
and that not in the right way." 

" To write a good poem," said I, " requires great 
knowledge of the subject ; and he who has not, like 
Claude Lorraine, a whole world at his command, 
will seldom produce any thing good." 

" And then," said Goethe, " only native genius 
knows what is to be done, while others go blundering 
on their way." 

" Your aesthetic teachers," said I, " are a proof of 
this ; for scarce one of them knows what properly 
should be taught, and they only confuse young poets. 
They speak not of the Ideal, but of the Real ; instead 
of helping the young poet to what he has not, they 



CONVERSATIONS. 



307 



confuse him about what he has. He who has from 
nature wit or humor, will use them to the best advan- 
tage, while scarcely conscious of possessing them ; 
if, by these treatises, he is made conscious of his 
powers, they will be paralyzed." 

" You are right," he replied, " and a great deal 
might be said on that chapter." 

Speaking of the new epic of Egon Ebert, he said — 

" It shows much talent, but wants the true ground- 
work for a poem in Reality. What he takes from 
observation of the external world, landscapes, sunset, 
and sunrise, the stars, could not be better done. But 
the rest, which lies in ages gone by, and belongs to the 
Sagas, is not painted with its proper truth ; it has no 
pith or kernel. The Amazons, with their life and 
actions, are described in that general way which young 
people esteem poetic or romantic, and which passes 
for such in the aesthetic world." 

" This," said 1, " is the pervading fault of our 
present literature. Writers avoid special truths, for 
fear they should not be poetical, and thus fall into 
common place." 

" Egon Ebert," said Goethe, <k should have adhered 
strictly to the chronicles; he would then have made 
something of his poem. When I remember how 
Schiller studied tradition, what trouble he gave 
himself about Switzerland when he wrote his ' Tell,' 
and how Shakspeare used the chronicles, copying 
into his plays whole passages word for word, I am 
inclined to prescribe the same course to a young 
poet. I have, in my 1 Clavigo,' made use of whole 
passages from the 1 Memoirs ' of Beaumarchais." 



308 



ECKERMANN. 



" But they are so interwoven with the rest," said I, 
" that the fact is not observed." 

44 That is well," said Goethe, " if so it be. 
Beaumarchais was a mad Christian, and you must read 
his ' Memoirs.' Lawsuits were his element, in which 
he felt truly at home. There are arguments from one 
of his lawsuits, among the boldest, most impressive, 
and full of talent, which have ever been known in the 
kind. He lost this famous lawsuit. As he was going 
down the stairs from the court, he met the Chancellor 
coming up. Beaumarchais ought to have given place ; 
he would not, but took half the stair. The Chan- 
cellor, thinking himself insulted, commanded his 
people to push Beaumarchais aside, which they did. 
Beaumarchais immediately returned into court, and 
took steps to begin a process against the Chancellor, 
in which he came off victor." 

We talked of Goethe's " Second Residence in 
Rome." He said — 

" I have now taken it up once more, that I may 
finally get rid of it, and turn my attention to something 
else. You know that my published Italian journey 
was prepared from my letters. But I cannot use those 
in the same way which I wrote during my second visit 
to Rome ; they contain too much about home ; about 
my connections in Weimar ; and too little about my 
Italian life. Yet there are many utterances of my 
inward life. I think of extracting these, and inserting 
them in my narrative, to which they will give tone 
and harmony." 



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" It has from olden time been said and repeated, 
that man should strive to know himself. To this 
singular requisition no man either has fully answered 
or shall answer. Man is by sense and custom led 
outwards into the world, and has a great deal to do 
that he may know and make use of this. He knows 
himself only from joy or sorrow, and is only in this 
way instructed what to seek, and what to shun. Man 
is a darkened being ; he knows not whence he comes, 
nor whither he goes ; he knows little of the world, 
and less of himself. I know not myself, and may God 
protect me from it ! But this I can say, in my fortieth 
year, while living in Italy, I became wise enough to 
know thus much of myself — that I had no talent for 
the plastic arts, and that this tendency of mine was 
a false one. If I drew any thing, I had not a sufficient 
inclination for the corporeal. I felt a certain fear lest 
objects should press too much upon me ; rather was 
I suited with the weak, the moderate. If I drew a 
landscape, and got well through the back- and middle- 
ground, I never dared making the fore-ground powerful 
enough ; so that my pictures never produced the right 
impression. Then I made no progress except by 
practice, and was always obliged to go back, if I left 
off practising for a while. Yet I was not absolutely 
destitute of talent, and Hackert was wont to say, « If 
you would stay with me eighteen months, you might; 
do something which would give pleasure to yourself 
and others.' " 

I listened with great interest. 

" But how," said I, " can one be sure of possessing 
real talent for an art ? " 



310 



ECKERMANN. 



"Real talent," said Goethe, "possesses an innate 
sense for form, relations, and color, so as to manage 
all that well with little instruction. Especially has it 
a sense for the corporeal, and brings it out into 
palpable existence, by judicious distribution of the 
lights. In the intervals of practice it pauses not, 
but grows inwardly. Such a talent is not hard to 
recognize, yet best recognized by a master. 

" I visited the palace this morning," continued he, 
in a lively tone. " The apartments of the Grand 
Duchess are furnished with great taste ; and Coudray 
has shown with his Italian people his fine judgment 
anew. The painters were still busy with the walls ; 
*ey are two Milanese. I spoke Italian with them, and 
was glad to see that I had not lost the power. The 
language brings back, as it were, the atmosphere of the 
country." 

After dinner, he sent for a small plan of Rome. 

" Rome," said he, " would not do for the permanent 
abode of people like us. He who would settle there 
must marry and turn Catholic, else would he lead an 
uncomfortable life. Hackert is not a little proud of 
having lived there so long a Protestant." 

He showed me the Villa Farnese. 

" Was not," said I, "the witch scene, in ' Faust,' 
written in those gardens ? " 

* " No," he replied, " in the Borghese gardens." 

I now refreshed myself with more landscapes by 
Claude. 

" Could not now a young artist," said I, " model 
himself on this great master?" 

" He whose mind is cast in a like mould," answered 



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Goethe, " would, without doubt, best unfold himself on 
Claude Lorraine. But he whom nature did not so 
endow will at best know only particulars of this great 
master, and make use of him by way of phrase." 

Saturday, 11th April. 
I found the table set to-day in the long hall, with 
covers for many persons. Goethe and Frau von 
Goethe received me with great cordiality. One by 
one entered — Madame Schopenhauer, young Count 
Reinhard of the French embassy, his brother-in-law, 

Von D , passing through to enter the Russian 

army against the Turks, Fraulein Ulrica, and Hofrath 
Vogel. 

Goethe was in a particularly cheerful mood, and 
entertained us before dinner with some pleasant 
Frankfort stories, especially about Rothschild and 
Bethmann's interference with one another's specu- 
lations. 

Count Reinhard went to Court, and the others sat 
down to dinner. The conversation was lively and 
agreeable. They talked of travelling; of the bathing 
places ; and Madame Schopenhauer interested us in 
the arrangements going on at her new estate on the 
Rhine, near the Island Nonnen werth. 

After dinner, Count Reinhard returned, and was 
much complimented on the quickness of his motions, 
as he not only had dined at Court, but changed his 
dress twice, since he left us. 

He brought us news, that a pope was chosen, and 
from the family of the Castiglioni. Goethe detailed to 



312 



ECKERMANN. 



the company the ceremonies usual when a pope is 
chosen. 

Count Reinhard, who had passed the winter at 
Paris, gave us a great deal of desirable information 
about celebrated statesmen, literati, and poets — Cha- 
teaubriand, Guizot, Salvandy, Beranger, Merimee, 
and others. 

After dinner, when all except myself had taken 
leave, Goethe showed me two very interesting papers. 
They were two letters written in his youth, one in 
1770, from Strasburg, to his friend, Dr. Horn, at 
Frankfort ; one in July, the other in December. In 
both spoke a young man who had a presentiment of 
the great things which lay before him to do. In the 
last, traces of " Werther" are visible; the Sesenheim 
connection had been formed, and the happy youth, 
dizzy with the sweetest feelings, seemed lavishing 
away his days, as if in a dream. The hand-writing 
was calm, clear, and elegant ; it had already formed 
to the character it always afterwards preserved. I 
could not forbear reading again and again these 
charming letters, and left Goethe full of emotions of 
happiness and gratitude. 

Sunday, 12th April. 

Goethe read me his answer to the King of Bavaria. 
He had represented himself as if ascending the steps 
of the Villa, and expressing his feelings to the King, 
by word of mouth. 

"It must be difficult," said I, " to preserve exactly 
the proper tone and manner in such a connection." 



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313 



"Not difficult," said Goethe, " to one who has had, 
during a long life, so much intercourse as I with 
persons of high rank. Yet perfect nature will not do ; 
we do not meet them man to man, but must keep 
within the line of a certain conventional propriety." 

He spoke of the papers belonging to his " Second 
Residence at Rome," which he is now looking over. 

" From the letters," said he, " which were written 
at that period, I can easily see what advantages and 
disadvantages come with every time of life, to balance 
these of earlier and later periods. In my fortieth 
year, I was as clear and decided on some subjects 
as at present, and, in many respects, superior to my 
present self ; yet, now, in my eightieth, I possess 
advantages which I would not exchange for these." 

" While you made that remark," said 1, " the 
metamorphosis of plants came before my eyes, and 
I can well understand that one would not return from 
the flower to the green leaf, from the fruit or seed 
to the flower." 

" The simile," he replied, " expresses perfectly my 
meaning." 

" It is bad, however, that we are so hindered in life 
by false tendencies, and cannot know them to be false 
until we are already freed from them." 

" How," said I, " shall we know whether a tendency 
be false or no ? " 

" Either," he replied, " the false tendency produces 
nothing, or nothing of worth. It is easy enough to 
judge about this in others ; but to be just upon one- 
self requires great freedom of spirit. And, even if we 

B B 



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ECKERMANN. 



do perceive the truth with regard to ourselves, that is 
not always enough ; we delay, doubt, cannot resolve 
to part, even as the lover cannot leave the beloved 
maiden of whose infidelity he had repeated proofs long 
since. This I say, because I remember how many 
years I was finding out that my tendency to the plastic 
arts was a false one, and how many, after I was sure 
that it was so, to separate myself entirely from it." 

" But," said I, " that tendency has been of such 
advantage to you, that it can hardly be considered 
false." 

" I make myself easy about it," said Goethe, " by 
recollecting how much it has done for me in the way 
of insight. That is the good we draw from these 
errors. He who, with inadequate abilities, devotes 
himself to music, will never, indeed, become a master, 
but may learn to know and to value a masterly pro- 
duction. With all my toil, I could not be an artist ; 
but, as I tried every department of art, I learned to 
take cognizance of each stroke, and to know success 
from failure. This is no small gain ; and false tenden- 
cies scarce ever fail to produce the like. Even such 
misdirected efforts were the Crusades ; but, though 
they could not free the holy sepulchre, they weakened 
the Turks, and prevented them from gaining ground 
in Europe." 

He spoke to me of a book on Peter the Great, by 
Segur, which had interested and given him much 
light. 

" The situation of Petersburg," said he, " is quite 
unpardonable, especially as the ground rises in the 
neighborhood, and the Emperor could have had a 



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315 



city quite exempt from all this trouble from overflow 
of the stream, if he had but gone a little higher 
up, and had only the haven in this low place. An 
old shipmaster represented this to him, and prophesied 
that the people of the city would all be drowned every 
seventy years. There stood also an old tree, with 
various marks from times when the waters had risen 
to a great height. It was all in vain ; the Emperor 
stood to his whim, and had the tree cut down, that it 
might not bear witness against him. 

" You will be surprised at such conduct in so great 
a man. I explain it to myself thus : — Man cannot 
cast aside his youthful impressions ; even bad things, 
to which he was accustomed in those early years, 
remain so dear to him that he cannot see their faults. 
So would Peter the Great repeat Amsterdam, so dear 
to his youth, upon the Neva ; as the Dutch always 
try to build new Amsterdams in the distant regions 
where they sometimes go to live." 

Monday, 13th April. 

I looked again at some of Claude's landscapes. 

" The collection," said Goethe, " bears the title 
Liber Veritatis, and might, with equal propriety, 
be styled Liber Natures et Artis, — for here we find 
Nature and Art in the highest state and fairest 
agreement." 

I asked in what school Claude Lorraine formed 
himself. 

" His nearest master," said Goethe, " was Antonio 
Tasso, who was, however, a pupil of Paul Brill, whose 
maxims afforded Claude a foundation, and whose 



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ECKERMANN. 



school came in him to flower ; for what appeared too 
earnest and severe in those masters, is, in Claude 
Lorraine, unfolded to the serenest sweetness and 
loveliest freedom. There is no going beyond him. 

" It is difficult to say from whom so great a genius, 
and who lived in so remarkable a time and situation, 
did learn. He looked about, and appropriated every 
thing which could afford nourishment to his designs. 
No doubt he was as much indebted to the Caracci 
school as to his immediate masters. 

" Thus, it is usual to say, Julio Romano was the 
scholar of Raphael ; but we might, with as much 
propriety, say he was the scholar of his age. Only 
Guido Reni had a scholar, who received so entirely 
into himself the spirit, intellect, and art of his master, 
that he was and did almost exactly the same as he. 
This is a case by itself, and which will hardly be 
repeated. 

" The Caracci school, on the contrary, was calcu- 
lated to set free and remove obstacles, so that each 
talent was developed in its natural direction, and 
masters proceeded from it, all entirely different one 
from another. The Caracci seemed born to be 
teachers of Art ; they lived in a time when the best 
had already been done, and they could show their 
scholars the finest models in all departments. They 
were great artists, great teachers ; but I could not 
say that they were truly gifted with the spirit, (geist- 
reich.) It is a somewhat bold saying, but so it seems 
to me." 

After I had looked at a few more landscapes of 
Claude's, I opened an Artist's Lexicon, to see what is 



r 



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317 



said of this great master. We found " His chief merit 
was in his palette." 

"We looked at one another, and laughed. 

" There you see," said Goethe, " how much he 
learns who relies on books, and receives all that he 
finds written." 

Tuesday, 14th April. 

I found Meyer with Goethe. He showed us in the 
Claude Lorraine volume, the engraving of the land- 
scape, for which we lately saw in the newspapers that 
Peel had given four thousand pounds. He has got a 
beautiful picture ; it is no bad bargain. 

On the right side of the picture is a group of people 
sitting and standing. A shepherd is leaning over a 
girl, whom he seems to be instructing to play upon the 
pipe. In the middle is a lake, in the full light of the 
sun ; on the left, cattle grazing in the shade of a 
grove. The two groups balance one another ad- 
mirably, and the full light has the magical effect usual 
with that artist. 

Meyer said he knew well the villa which the King 
of Bavaria has bought, and had often been there. 

" The house is of moderate size. The King, no 
doubt, will adorn it, and make it attractive. In my 
time, the Duchess Amelia lived there, and Herder 
in the next house. Afterwards, the Duke of Sussex 
and Lord Munster lived there. Strangers of high 
rank preferred it on account of the healthy situation 
and superb prospect." 

I asked Meyer how far it was from this Villa to the 
Vatican. 

b b 2 



318 



ECKERM A XX. 



" From Trinita di Monte, which is near the Villa, 
and where the artists live," said Meyer, " it is a good 
half league. We went over the ground daily, and 
often more than once a day. Sometimes we crossed 
the Tiber in a boat, instead of going by the bridge. I 
remember we were returning one fine moonlight night 
from the Vatican; Bury, Hirt, and Lips, were with 
me, and we were engaged in the customary dispute, 
which is the greater, Raphael or Michael Angelo. 
When we reached the shore, we were fully engaged in 
argument ; some merry rogue — I think it was Bury — 
proposed we should remain upon the water till the 
strife was settled, and the parties agreed. The 
proposal was acceded to, and the boatman bid to put 
off again. Now indeed the dispute grew lively, and 
when we reached the opposite shore, we put back, and 
so on, hour after hour, which suited nobody better 
than the boatman, who had a new fee each time. 
He had with him, as his helper, a boy of twelve years 
old, who knew not what to make of our conduct. 

" ' Father,' said he, ' what is the matter with these 
men, that they will not land, and we must keep going 
back ? ' 

" ' I know not, my son,' replied the boatman ; ' but I 
believe they are mad.' 

" Finally, in order not to row to and fro the whole 
night, we agreed, and landed." 

We laughed at this anecdote. Meyer was in the 
best humor ; he continued talking of Rome, and 
Goethe and I took pleasure in listening to him. 

" This dispute about Raphael and Michael Angelo," 
continued Meyer, " was the order of every day, and 



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319 



always introduced when there were a sufficient number 
of artists present to support both sides. It usually 
began at some inn where they had good wine at a 
cheap rate ; pictures were referred to, and, if the 
adversary disputed the instances adduced, we would 
adjourn to the Sistine Chapel. The key was kept 
by a shoemaker, who would open it at any time, for 
four groschen. After having demonstrated from the 
pictures, and disputed long enough, we would return 
to the inn, to be reconciled, and forget all controversy 
over another bottle of wine. So was it each day ; and 
the shoemaker of the Sistine Chapel got many times 
the four groschen." 

Mention was made of another shoemaker, who was 
in the habit of beating out his leather on an antique 
marble head. 

" It was the portrait of a Roman Emperor," said 
Meyer. " The antique stood before the shoemaker's 
door, and we have often seen him engaged in this 
laudable occupation as we passed by." 

Wednesday, 15th April. 

We talked of people who, without having any real 
talent, were excited to productivity, and of those who 
write upon subjects which they do not understand. 

" What misleads young people," said Goethe, " is 
this : We live in a time when culture is so diffused, 
that it has become the atmosphere which a young man 
breathes ; poetical and philosophical thoughts, which 
he has imbibed with the air he breathes, live and move 
within him; he fancies them his own, and utters them 
as such. But after he has restored to the time what it 



320 



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gave him, he remains a poor man. He is like a 
fountain, which spouts forth a little while the water 
which is drawn into it, but ceases to give a drop when 
the loan is exhausted." 

Tuesday, 1st September. 

I mentioned a person now visiting Weimar, who had 
heard Hegel's Lectures on the proof of the existence 
of God. Goethe agreed with me, that the time for 
such lectures was gone by. 

" The period of doubt," said he, " is past ; men 
now doubt as little the existence of God as their own. 
And the nature of the Divinity, immortality, the 
existence of our own souls, and their connection with 
our bodies, are eternal problems, which our philoso- 
phers make no progress in solving. A late French 
philosopher begins confidently thus : — 

" ' It is acknowledged that man consists of two parts, 
body and soul ; accordingly, we will begin by speaking 
of the body, and pass on to the soul.' 

" Fichte went somewhat farther, and extricated 
himself more skilfully from the dilemma, when he 
said — 

" ' We shall speak of man regarded as a body, and 
of man regarded as a soul.' 

" He felt that a so closely combined whole could not 
be separated. Kant has given more satisfaction than 
others, by drawing the limits, beyond which, human 
intellect has not strength to penetrate, and leaving at 
rest the insoluble problems. I doubt not of our 
immortality, for nature cannot dispense with our con- 
tinued activity. But we are not all, in like manner, 



CONVERSATIONS. 



321 



immortal ; and he who would manifest himself as a 
great Entelecheia to future ages, must begin now. 

" While the Germans are tormenting themselves with 
these philosophical problems, the English, with their 
fine practical understanding, laugh at us, and win the 
world. Every body knows how they have declaimed 
against the slave trade ; and, while they have made 
us believe they were incited solely by motives of 
humanity, we at last discover that they have an object, 
such as they do nothing without ; and this we should 
have known before. They themselves need the blacks, 
in their extensive domains on the western coast of 
Africa, and they do not like the trade which carries 
them off. They have large colonies of negroes in 
America, which are very profitable. From these they 
can supply the demand from JNorth America, and, if 
slaves are brought from other places, it injures their 
traffic; so they preach against the inhuman African 
slave trade. At the Congress of Vienna, the English 
envoy denouncing it with great zeal, the Portuguese 
envoy had the good sense quietly to reply, he did not 
know they came together to sit in judgment on the 
world, or to decide upon maxims of morality. He 
well understood the object of England ; he also had 
his, which he knew how to plead for and obtain." 

Sunday, 6th December. 
To-day, after dinner, Goethe read me the first scene 
of the second act of " Faust." The effect was great, 
and gave my soul a high satisfaction. We are once 
more in Faust's study, where Mephistophiles finds all 



ft 



322 



ECKERMANN. 



just as he had left it. He takes from the hook Faust's 
old study-gown, and a thousand moths and insects 
flutter out from it. While these are quieting down 
again, and Mephistophiles is speaking, the locality is 
brought very clearly before our eyes. He puts on the 
gown, while Faust lies behind a curtain, in a state of 
paralysis, intending to play the Doctor's part once 
more. He pulls the bell, and such an awful tone 
reverberates into the cloister, that the doors spring 
open and the walls tremble. The servant rushes up, 
and finds Mephistophiles in Faust's seat ; he does not 
recognize, but pays him respect. Being asked, he 
replies that Wagner is now become a celebrated man, 
but is always hoping the return of his master ; that he 
is at this moment busy in his laboratory, seeking to 
produce an Homunculus. The servant retires, and the 
Bachelor enters ; he is the same whom we knew some 
years ago as a shy young student, when Mephistoph- 
iles (in Faust's gown) made such a joke of him. 
He is now become a man, but still is so in dark- 
ness that even Mephistophiles can do nothing with 
him. 

" The conception," said Goethe, " is now so old, 
for I have had it in my mind for fifty years ; the 
materials have consequently accumulated to such a 
degree, that separation and choice are by no means 
easy. The scheme, even of the second part, is as old 
as I say ; but it may be an advantage that I have not 
written it down till now, that I have so much 
knowledge of the world. I am like one who began life 
with a small sum in silver and copper money, which he 



CONVERSATIONS. 



323 



has during his course exchanged again and again with 
such profit that he has it now in pure gold." 

I asked whether the Bachelor was not meant to 
represent a certain class of ideal philosophers. 

" No," said Goethe, " I only meant to personify the 
arrogance which is natural to youth, and of which we 
had such striking examples after our war for freedom. 
A man believes, in his youth, that the world properly 
began with him, and that all exists for his sake. 

"In the East, there was a man who, every morning, 
collected his people about him, and never would go to 
work till he had commanded the sun to arise. But he 
was wise enough not to speak his command till the sun 
of its own accord was ready to appear." 

Goethe remained awhile absorbed in silent thought ; 
then he said — 

"I cannot but think that the demons, dallying with 
men, have placed among them single figures, so 
alluring that every one strives after them, so great 
that nobody can reach them. Raphael was one — he 
whose thoughts and acts were equally perfect ; some 
distinguished followers have come near, but none has 
ever equalled him. Mozart represents the unattainable 
in music ; Shakspeare in poetry. I know what you 
can say on the other side ; but I refer to the natural 
dowry, the inborn wealth. Even so, none can stand by 
the side of Napoleon. It was great that the Russians 
were so moderate as not to go to Constantinople ; but 
we find a similar trait in Napoleon — he too had the 
moderation not to go to Rome." 

I thought to myself that the demons had made 



324 



ECKERMANN. 



Goethe even so — a form too alluring not to be striven 
after ; too great to be reached. 

Wednesday, lCth December. 

To-day, after dinner, Goethe read me the second 
scene of the second act of " Faust," where Mephistoph- 
iles visits Wagner, who is hoping to make a human 
being by chemical means. The work succeeds ; the 
Homunculus appears in the phial, a shining being, and 
becomes at once active. He repels Wagner's questions 
upon incomprehensible subjects ; reasoning is not his 
business ; he wishes to act, and begins with our hero, 
Faust, who needs a higher aid to shake off the 
paralysis. He sees into the soul of Faust, and, by 
describing the dream he is enjoying, brings a most 
charming picture before our eyes. Mephistophiles 
sees nothing in it, and the Homunculus jeers at his 
northern nature. 

" Generally," said Goethe, " you will perceive that 
Mephistophiles appears to disadvantage beside the 
Homunculus, who is like him in clearness of intellect, 
superior to him in his tendency to the beautiful, and 
to a beneficent activity. For the rest, he styles him 
cousin ; for such intellectual beings as this Homun- 
culus, not yet saddened and limited by the assumption 
of a human nature, belong to the class of demons, and 
thus there is a sort of relationship between him and 
Mephisto." 

" Certainly," said I, " Mephistophiles occupies here 
but a subordinate situation ; yet I cannot help thinking 
that he has been at work, in his secret way, to produce 
the Homunculus. It would be like what I have seen 



CONVERSATIONS. 



325 



of him before. Thus superior in the whole, he can 
well afford to Jet himself down a little in partic- 
ulars." 

"Your feeling is correct," said Goethe; 44 indeed, 
1 have doubted whether it would not be well to put 
some verses into the mouth of Mephistophiles, to make 
the reader aware of the truth." 

" It would do no harm," said I. " Yet is this inti- 
mated by the words with which Mephistophiles closes 
the scene — 

4 Am Ende hängen wir doch ah 
Von Creaturen die wir machten. ' " 

44 True," said Goethe, " that would be almost enough 
for the attentive ; but I will think about adding some 
verses." 

# * * * - * # * # 
I thought again of Faust's dream about Leda. 
44 How," said I, " the parts of such a work bear 

upon, perfect, and sustain one another ! This dream 

of Leda is the groundwork of 4 Helena.' " 

Goethe was pleased that I remarked this. 

" So you will see," said he, 44 how much there is 
in these earlier acts to harmonize the classic and 
romantic ; this is the rising ground to the spot where 
both those forms of poetry are brought out, and in 
some sort balance one another. 

44 The French begin to think justly of these forms. 
Both classic and romantic, say they, are equally good; 
only let the form be used with judgment, and be the 

c c 



326 



ECKERMANN. 



medium of valuable thoughts. You can be absurd in 
either, and then it is good for nothing." 

Sunday, 20th December. 

Dined with Goethe. We spoke of the Chancellor, 
and I asked whether he did not bring any news of 
Manzoni, on his return from Italy. 

" He wrote to me about him," said Goethe. " The 
Chancellor paid Manzoni a visit ; he lives on his 
estate near Milan, and is, to my sorrow, always 
sick." 

" 'Tis singular," said I, " that we generally find 
persons of distinguished talents, and especially poets, 
with very weak constitutions." 

" The extraordinary performances of these men," he 
replied, " show that they are of uncommonly delicate 
organization, which makes them more susceptible to 
unusual emotions, and enables them to hear more 
easily the celestial voices. Such an organization is 
easily injured or destroyed by conflict with the world 
and the elements ; and he who does not, like Voltaire, 
combine with great sensibility an equally uncommon 
tenacity, must lose his health entirely. Schiller was 
always sick. When I first knew him, I thought he 
could not live four weeks ; but he had something of 
the tenacity I spoke of; he sustained himself many 
years, and would have done so longer, if he would 
have lived in a way more favorable to health." 

We spoke of the theatre, and of a certain part. 

"I have seen Unzelmann in it," said Goethe; " we 
always enjoyed seeing him ; for he had a perfect 
freedom of spirit, which he imparted to us. 'Tis 



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327 



with acting as with all the other arts. What the 
artist does or has done is sure to excite in us the 
self-same mood in which he did it. A free mood 
in the artist makes us free ; a restrained one restrains 
us. We usually find this freedom in the artist who 
is fully grown up to his work. ( This is what pleases 
us in the Flemish school ; those artists painted the 
life around them, of which they were perfect masters. 
An actor, to have this freedom, must, by study, fancy, 
and disposition, have become perfect master of his 
part, must have all bodily requisites at his command, 
and be upheld by a certain youthful energy. But 
study is not enough without imagination; imagination 
is not enough without suitableness of disposition. 
Women do the most through imagination and tem- 
perament ; thence came the excellence of Madame 
Wolff." 

We discussed the possibility of acting this sequel to 
" Faust." 

******** 

I spoke of the elephant in the carnival. 

" He would not be the first elephant that has 
appeared on the stage," said Goethe. " In Paris, they 
have one who plays a whole part. He is on a side in 
some public dispute, takes the crown from the head 
of one king, and sets it upon that of another, which, 
of course, must have a grand effect. When he is 
called for, at the close of the piece, he comes out 
alone, makes his reverence, and then returns. So you 
see that we need not want for elephants at our 
carnival. But it is on too large a scale, and would 



328 



ECKERMANN. 



demand such a manager as is not easily to be 
found." 

# # * # * * * # 
"If," said I, "it could be represented as you have 

designed it, the public would sit astonished, and 
confess that it wanted power of thought and sense 
fitly to receive such an empire of apparitions." 

" Go," said Goethe, " leave your public, of which 
I would not willingly hear any thing. The most 
important is to put it in writing ; then let the public 
receive it as it will, and use it as far as it can." 

We spoke of the boy Lenker. 

" You have discovered Faust under the mask of 
Plutus, Mephistophiles under that of Avarice; but 
who is the boy Lenker ?" 

I hesitated, and knew not what to say. 

" It is Euphorion," said Goethe. 

" But how," said I, " can, he, who is not born till 
the third act, appear here at the carnival I" 

" Euphorion," he replied, " is not a human, but an 
allegorical being. In him is Poetry personified, which 
is bound down to no time, no place, and no person. 
The same spirit, who is afterwards pleased to appear 
as Euphorion, is here the boy Lenker, like ghosts 
which are present every where, and can appear at any 
hour." 

# # -* * # # * # 
[Goethe afterwards read other scenes to Eckermann ; 

but, as only an outline of them is given, unaccom- 
panied by any explanatory hints, they are omitted.] 



CONVERSATIONS. 



329 



Sunday, January 3, 1830. 

Goethe showed me the " English Keepsake," for 
1830, with very fine engravings, and some extremely 
interesting letters from Lord Byron, which I read after 
dinner. He was, meanwhile, reading the French 
translation of his " Faust," by Gerard. 

" I have some singular thoughts in my head," said 
he, " on finding this book translated into a language 
over which Voltaire had the mastery fifty years since. 
You cannot understand my thoughts upon this subject, 
because you can have no idea of the influence which 
Voltaire and his great contemporaries had over me 
in my youth, as over the whole civilized world. My 
biography does not clearly show how powerful was the 
influence of these men over me in those years ; how 
difficult it was for me to defend myself against them, 
to maintain my own ground, and true relation to 
nature." 

We talked further about Voltaire, and Goethe 
recited to me his poem Les Systemcs, from which I 
perceived how he had studied and appropriated such 
things in early life. 

He praised Gerard's translation as very successful, 
although mostly in prose. 

" I cannot read my ' Faust,' " said he, " now, in 
German, but this French translation gives it back to 
me in all its original freshness and significance." 

" ' Faust,' " continued he, " is, indeed, incommen- 
surable ; and all attempts to bring it nearer to the 
understanding are in vain. Also, it should be con- 
sidered, that the first part is the product of a some- 
what obscure era in my mental progress. How- 



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ECKERMANN. 



ever, its very obscurity has a charm for men's minds, 
exciting them to thought, as all insoluble problems do." 

Sunday, 10th January. 
This afternoon, Goethe did me the great pleasure 
of reading those scenes in which Faust visits the 
Mothers. 

The novelty and unexpectedness of this subject, 
with his manner of reading the scene, struck me so 
forcibly, that I felt myself translated into the situation 
of Faust, shuddering at the communication from 
Mephistophiles. 

Although I had heard and felt the whole, yet so 
much remained an enigma to me, that I felt, myself 
compelled to ask Goethe for some explanation. But 
he, in his usual manner, wrapped himself up in 
mystery, looking on me with wide, open eyes, and 
repeating the words — 

" * Die Mutter ! Mütter ! 's klingt so wunderlich.' 

" I can betray to you no more, except that I found, 
in Plutarch, that in ancient Greece the Mothers were 
spoken of as divinities. This is all for which I am 
indebted to tradition ; the rest is my own invention. 
Take the manuscript home with you, study it carefully, 
and see to what conclusion you come." 

I was very glad of an opportunity to study these 
interesting scenes in quiet, and took thereby the 
following view of the peculiar characters and opera- 
tions, the abode and outward circumstances, of the 
Mothers : — 



CONVERSATIONS. 



331 



Could we imagine that our earth had an empty space 
in its centre, permitting one to go hundreds of miles 
in one direction, without coming in contact with any 
thing corporeal, this might be the abode of those 
unknown goddesses to whom Faust descends. They 
do not live in any place; for nothing stands firm in 
their neighborhood. Neither can we attach to them 

o 

the idea of time; for no heavenly body shines upon 
them, which, by its rising or setting, can mark the 
alternation of day and night. 

Thus, dwelling in eternal obscurity and loneliness, 
these Mothers are creative beings. They are the 
creating and sustaining principles from which all 
phenomena on the surface of the earth proceed. 
Whatever ceases to breathe, returns in its spiritual 
nature to them, and they preserve it until a fit occasion 
rises to imbody it anew. All souls and forms of what 
has been, or will be, hover like clouds in the vast 
space of their abode. 

So are the Mothers surrounded, and the magician 
must be able to enter their dominion, if he would 
obtain power over the forms of beings, and be able 
to call back former existences to seeming life. 

The eternal metamorphoses of earthly being, birth 
and growth, destruction and new formation, are also 
the unceasing care of the Mothers ; and, as in all 
which receives new life on earth, female influences 
are most busy, these creating and sustaining divinities 
are thought of as female, and may rightly receive 
the title of Mothers. 

Really, this is all only poetic creation ; but the 
limited human mind cannot penetrate far into these 



332 



ECKERMANN. 



subjects, and is well satisfied to find something on 
which it may rest. We see on earth apparitions, and 
feel influences, whose origin and aim are equally 
unknown to us ; this leads the mind to the idea of a 
spiritual source of divinity, for which we have no 
adequate thought and no fit expression; which we 
must draw down to us, and anthropomorphize, in order 
in some measure to imbody and make comprehensible 
our obscure sentiments. 

So have all Mythi arisen, which from century to 
century have lived with nations, and, in like man- 
ner, this new one of Goethe's, which has at least the 
semblance of a truth of nature, and may indeed bear 
comparison with the best in its kind. 

Sunday, 24th January. 

" I have to-day received a letter from our famous 
director of the mines in Stotternheim," said Goethe, 
" whose introduction I must communicate to you. 

<{ C I have had an experience,' writes he, ' which will 
not be lost upon me ; ' and what do you suppose this 
is ? It involves the loss of at least a thousand dollars. 
The shaft by which you descend through earth and 
stone, twelve hundred feet down to the rock salt, he 
improvidently omitted to prop up sufficiently at the 
sides. The soft ground has crumbled away, and so 
filled up the pit, that it will be a very expensive piece 
of work to clear it out again. He will then, 1200 feet 
down, put in metal pipes, to secure him for the future 
against a similar mischance. He should have done it 
at first ; but such people as he have a fearlessness in 
their undertakings, which those of a different tempera- 



CONVERSATIONS. 



333 



ment cannot understand, without whose aid they would 
never venture on such enterprises. He takes his misfor- 
tune very coolly, and simply thinks " I have gained an 
experience which will not be lost upon me." This is 
the conduct of such a man as I find true pleasure in ; 
who rises from his fall, and begins to act again 
immediately. What say you to it 1 Does it not 
please you ? " 

" It reminds me of Sterne's complaint," I replied, 
" that he had not used his sorrows like a reasonable 
man." 

" It is something similar," said Goethe. 

" I am also reminded of Behrisch," continued I. 
" Accidentally, this very day, I have been reading his 
chapter on experience. 

" ( Experience,' says he, ' is only to be gained by 
doing something which one would not willingly have 
done.'" 

" Yes," said Goethe, smiling, " such is the ancient 
pastime in which we so shamefully lose our time." 

" Behrisch," said I, " seems to have been a man 
full of sweetness and elegance. How pleasant is the 
joke in the wine-cellar, when he prevents the young 
man in such whimsical ways from visiting his 
mistress ! " 

" Yes," said Goethe, " that is pretty ; 'twould have 
been a most attractive scene on the stage, as, 
indeed, Behrisch every way shows a talent for the 
theatre." 

We then talked over all the odd anecdotes told of 
Behrisch in Goethe's " Life ; " his gray clothes, where 
silk, satin, and wool are shaded one with another, as 



334 



ECKERMANN. 



if all his care had been to find some new shade of 
gray; how he wrote his poems imitating the com- 
positor ; his favorite pastime of lying at the window to 
observe the dress of the passers-by, and in his thoughts 
to alter it in the most ludicrous manner. 

" Then his way of amusing himself with the post- 
boys ; is not that droll 1 " 

" I do not remember that," said I ; " it is not 
mentioned in your memoirs." 

" Indeed,' 5 said Goethe, " then will I tell it you. 
When we were lying together at the window, and he 
saw the letter-carrier coming up the street, and going 
from one house to another, he would take out a penny, 
and lay it on the window-sill. 

" ' Seest thou the letter-carrier ? ' says he, turning 
to me. ' He is coming here immediately : he has a 
letter to thee ; and what a letter ! no every-day affair ; 
but a letter with a check on the bank ; with a check 
for, I dare not say how much ; see, he is coming in. 
No ! but he will come immediately. There he is 
again now ; here ! here ! my friend, this is the place. 
He goes by — how stupid ! O, how stupid ! how can 
one be so stupid, and act so shamefully in two ways ! — 
towards thee, to whom he does not give the check 
which he had in his hand all ready for thee, and 
towards himself, to lose this penny, which I had taken 
out for him, and must now put up again.' Then he 
would put, with the most ludicrous air of dignity, the 
penny again in his pocket." 

I was amused with this anecdote, so like the rest. 
I asked Goethe whether he did not see Behrisch in 
later days. 



CONVERSATIONS. 



335 



" Yes," said he, « in 1776, when I went with the 
Duke to Dessau, where he lived as governor of the 
hereditary prince. I found him, as formerly, the 
graceful courtier, and of the pleasantest humor." 
******** 

" I saw him last in 1801. He was an old man then, 
and still in the best humor. He had very handsome 
chambers in the castle, and had filled one of them 
with geraniums, of which he was then very fond. 

" At that time, the botanists had made a new 
classification among the geraniums, and given a certain 
sort the name of Pelargoniums. This made Behrisch 
very angry. He was always scolding at the botanists. 
' Blockheads ! ' said he ; 'I think I have a whole room 
full of geraniums, and they come and tell me they 
are Pelargoniums. What shall I do with them if 
they are not geraniums? What do I care for their 
Pelargoniums?' And so he talked by the half hour 
together." 

We talked then of the classic " Carnival," the 
beginning of which Goethe had read me some day3 
since. 

" Mythological figures," said he, " press upon me 
in crowds; but I take care to use only such as will 
produce a picturesque effect. Faust is now with 
Chiron, and I hope to satisfy myself with the scene. 
If I am diligent, I shall finish my ' Carnival ' in a few 
months. Nothing shall again distract me from 
' Faust.' It will be strange if I live to complete it ; 
yet it is possible. The fifth act is as good as done, 
and the fourth will all but write itself." 



336 



ECKERMANN. 



He then spoke of his health, and said how happy 
he was to find himself so perfectly well. 

" For this," said he, " I may thank Vogel ; but for 
him I should have said farewell to earth long since. He 
is a born physician, besides being one of the most 
genial men that I have ever known ; but we will not 
say how good he is, lest he be taken from us." 

Sunday, 31st January. 

Dined with Goethe. We talked of Milton. 

" I have lately," said Goethe, " been reading his 
' Samson,' which has more of the spirit of ancient 
times, than any production of any other modern 
poet. He is great, indeed, and his own blindness 
enabled him adequately to describe the situation of 
Samson. Milton was truly a poet; one to whom we 
owe all possible respect." 

The newspapers were brought in, and we saw in the 
"Berlin Gazette," that whales and sea-monsters had 
been introduced on the stage there. 

Goethe read in the French periodical, the " Times," 
an article on the enormous salaries of the English 
clergy, who receive more than all other ecclesiastics 
in Christendom put together. 

" It has been maintained, said Goethe, " that the 
world is governed by pay ; this I know, by examining 
the distribution of pay, we can find out whether it is 
well or ill governed." 

Wednesday, 3d February. 

We talked of Mozart. 

" I saw him," said Goethe, " at seven years old, 



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337 



when he gave us a concert while travelling on that 
route. I myself was about fourteen years old, and 
remember perfectly the little man, with his frisure 
and sword." 

I stared, hardly able to realize that Goethe was old 
enough to have known Mozart when a child. 

(fc- ' Ül 4lc <n 

Wednesday, 10th February. 

Dined with Goethe. He spoke with real gratifi- 
cation of the poem written by Riemer, for the festival 
of the 2d February. 

"All," said Goethe, "which Riemer writes, is fit 
to be seen both by master and journeymen." 

We talked also of the classic Walpurgis night. 
He said I should see no more of it till it be finished, 
and then I might have it, and examine it in quiet. 
He sent his servant to inquire after the Grand 
Duchess Mother, who is very ill, and seems in a 
dangerous situation. 

" She should not have seen the masquerade," said 
he ; " but princes are accustomed to take their own 
way, and the protests of her physician and attendants 
were in vain. With the same strong will with which 
she once confronted Napoleon, she now resists 
sickness ; and I see what this leads to : she will pass 
away, like the Grand Duke, in the full force and 
health of a mind which the body will no longer 
obey." 

He was visibly saddened, and kept silence for a 
while ; but soon we spoke again on pleasanter themes, 

D D 



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ECKERMANN. 



and he gave me an account of a book written in justifi- 
cation of Sir Hudson Lowe's conduct. 

"It contains fine anecdotes," said he, "such as 
are to be had only from eye-witnesses. You know 
Napoleon was in the habit of wearing a dark green 
uniform. This was, after a while, so tarnished and 
faded by sunlight and constant wear, that he needed 
another. He wished another of the same color ; but 
nothing of the kind was to be found on the island. 
There was, indeed, a piece of green cloth ; but the 
color was imperfect, and inclined to the yellowish. 
The lord of the world found it impossible to put on 
such a color as that ; and he was obliged to have 
his old uniform turned, and wear it so. 

" Is not that tragic 1 Is it not pathetic, that the 
ruler of the world should be so reduced, that he 
must wear a turned uniform ? Yet, when you re- 
member how this man trampled upon the lives and 
happiness of millions to accomplish his objects, the 
retribution of destiny seems a very mild one. Neme- 
sis could not help showing a little complaisance to so 
great a hero. Napoleon gives us a warning how 
dangerous it is to rise into the region of the absolute, 
and sacrifice all to the carrying out of an idea." 

I went to see the " Star of Seville," at the theatre. 

Sunday, 14th February. 
To-day, on my way to Goethe, I heard the news 
of the Grand Duchess Mother's death. I entered 
the house full of apprehensions for the effect which 
this news might have on Goethe at his advanced age. 



CONVERSATIONS. 



339 



The servants said his daughter-in-law was gone to tell 
him the sad news. 

" He has been, for fifty years," thought I, " attached 
to this princess, and blessed with her especial favor 
and friendship ; her death must deeply move him." 

When I entered his room, I was surprised to find 
him in his usual cheerfulness and vigor, taking his 
soup with his daughter-in-law and grandchildren, as 
if nothing had happened. 

We talked of indifferent things. Presently, all the 
bells began to toll ; Frau von Goethe looked at me, 
and we talked louder, that the tone of the death-bells 
might not come so near him. We thought he felt like 
us ; but he did not feel like us. His mind was in a 
wholly different position. He sat before us, like a 
being of a higher nature, inaccessible to earthly 
woes. 

Vogel was announced. He sat down, and told us 
all the circumstances of the last hours of the noble 
departed ; to Avhich Goethe listened with the same 
calmness and composure. He went away, and we 
talked awhile on other subjects. 

Goethe praised the " Reflections upon Play," in the 
last number of " Chaos." 

Frau von Goethe took the children away, and left 
me alone with Goethe. 

He then talked to me of his classic Walpurgis 
night, saying he was getting forward in it every day, 
and effecting wonderful things, quite beyond his 
expectation. 

He then showed me a letter which he had to-day 
received from the King of Bavaria, and which I read 



340 



ECKERMANN. 



with great interest. The King's true and noble way 
of thinking was manifest in every line ; and Goethe 
seemed much pleased by his constant interest in 
himself. 

Hofrath Soret now entered, with a message of friend- 
ly condolence from His Imperial Highness to Goethe, 
which contributed to maintain his serenity. He spoke 
of the celebrated Ninon de L'Enclos. In her six- 
teenth year, this transcendent beauty lay, apparently, 
on her death-bed, and, with the most perfect com- 
posure, comforted those who stood around it, saying, 
" Do I leave mere mortals behind me?" However, 
she lived to the age of ninety ; and from that time to 
her eightieth year made happy or desperate hundreds 
of lovers. 

He then talked of Gozzi, and his theatre at Venice, 
where the actors had merely subjects given them, and 
filled up the details impromptu. Gozzi said there 
were only six-and-thirty tragic situations. Schiller 
thought there were more, but could never succeed in 
finding so many. 

Then were said many interesting things about 
Grimm ; about his life, his character, and his distrust 
of paper money. 

Wednesday, 17th February. 

We talked of the theatre, — of the colors of deco- 
rations and dresses. The result was as follows : — 

Generally speaking, decorations should have a tone 
suitable to bring out the colors of dresses, like 
Beuther's, which fall more or less into the brownish. 
But, if the scene-painter cannot use one of these 



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341 



undecided colors, — if, for instance, he must introduce 
a red or a yellow room, a white tent, or a green 
garden, — the actor should have the judgment to avoid 
similar colors in his dress. If he comes into a red 
room, dressed in a red uniform and green pantaloons, 
his body vanishes, and you see only his legs ; if he 
goes into a green garden, in the same dress, an 
opposite result takes place. I have seen this happen 
where an actor in a white uniform and dark pantaloons 
appeared in a white tent. And if the scene-painter 
must use a green, or red, or yellow back-ground, he 
should make it as soft and aerial as possible, that the 
contrast with the dresses in the fore-ground may not 
be violent. 

We talked of the Iliad, and Goethe called my 
attention to the judgment shown in leaving Achilles 
inactive for a time, that the other heroes may have 
an opportunity to come forward and unfold their 
characters. 

Of the " Elective Affinities," he said that it con- 
tained no stroke which was not taken from his own 
experience, though nothing was told just as it had 
happened ; the same of the Sesenheim history. 

After dinner, we looked through a portfolio of de- 
signs from the Flemish school. One painting of a 
harbor, where men on one side are drawing fresh 
water, and on the other are playing dice on a barrel, 
gave occasion to interesting remarks, as to how far 
the Real must be avoided if we would not mar the 
effect of a work of Art. The cover of the barrel 
takes the principal light; you see, by the men's 
gestures, that they are throwing the dice, which, 



342 



ECKERMANN. 



however, are not painted upon the cover, because they 
would break the light, and have a bad effect. 

Ruysdael's studies plainly showed what toil is need- 
ful to form such an artist. 

Sunday, 21st February. 

Dined with Goethe. He showed me the air-plant, 
(Luft-planze,) which I looked at with great interest. 
I remarked therein an effort to continue its existence 
as long as possible, before permitting its successor to 
manifest itself. 

" I have determined," said Goethe, " to read neither 
the ' Times,' nor the ' Globe,' for a month to come. 
Things are in such a position, that some event of 
importance must happen within that time ; I will wait 
till the news comes to me. My Walpurgis night will 
gain from this abstinence ; and, besides, one gets 
nothing from such interests — a consideration often- 
times left too much out of mind." 

He showed me a letter, written by Boisseree, from 
Munich, which had given him great pleasure. Boisse- 
ree spoke especially of the " Second Residence in 
Rome," and on some points in the last sheets of " Art 
and Antiquity." His observations showed equal good 
will and judgment ; and we found cause highly to 
praise the activity and knowledge of this valuable 
man. 

Goethe then spoke of a new picture, by Cornelius, 
as being equally fine in conception and execution ; and 
the remark was made that opportunity for coloring a 
picture well must be found in the composition. 

Later, while walking, the air-plant came again into 



CONVERSATIONS. 



343 



my mind, and I thought how necessary it becomes to 
every being, after a while, to reproduce itself. This 
law of nature reminded me of the history of God 
living alone for a while, and then creating the Son, 
who is like him. So, too, good masters find nothing 
more appropriate to do than to form good scholars, 
by whom their efforts and opinions may be carried 
down into the next generation. Even so does the 
poet or artist reproduce himself in his work ; if that 
is excellent, he also must have been excellent. Thus 
no good work of another shall excite envy in me, 
while from its existence I must infer that of a man 
worthy to be its author. 

Wednesday, 24th February. 
Dined with Goethe. We talked of Homer. I 
remarked how real and direct the interposition of the 
gods seems. 

" That is infinitely delicate and human," said Goethe, 
" and I thank Heaven the times are gone by when the 
French were permitted to call this interposition of the 
gods machinery. But, really, to learn to appreciate 
merits so vast required some time, for it demanded a 
complete regeneration of their modes of culture." 

He said he had given a new touch to enhance the 
beauty of the apparition of Helena, which was sug- 
gested by a remark of mine, and did honor to my 
perceptions. 

After dinner, he showed me a sketch from a picture 
by Cornelius — Orpheus, before the throne of Pluto, 
supplicating for the release of Eurydice. The picture 



344 



ECKERMANN. 



seemed to us well conceived, and the details excellent ; 
yet it did not satisfy or yield a genuine pleasure to the 
mind. Perhaps, we thought, the coloring may give it 
the effect of greater harmony, or perhaps the following 
moment, when Orpheus has conquered the heart of 
Pluto, and Eurydice is about to be restored, would 
have been more propitious. The situation, in that 
case, not being so fraught with excitement and expec- 
tation, the effect would have been more satisfactory 
to the beholder. 

Monday, 1st March. 

Dined at Goethe's, with Hofrath Voigt, of Jena. 
The conversation turned entirely on subjects of natural 
history, in which Hofrath Voigt displayed the most 
various and comprehensive knowledge. 

Goethe mentioned that he had received a letter, 
containing this objection to his system, — that the 
cotyledons are not leaves, because they had no eyes 
behind them. But we satisfied ourselves, by examining 
various plants, that the cotyledons have eyes, as well 
as all the following leaves. 

Voigt says that the aperpi of the " Metamorphosis 
of Plants" is one of the most fruitful discoveries 
which researches into natural history have given to 
modern times. 

We spoke of collections of stuffed birds; and 
Goethe told us how an Englishman kept, in great 
cages, hundreds of living birds, which he fed daily. 
Some of these died, and he had them stuffed. These 
stuffed birds pleased him so well, that he thought 



CONVERSATIONS. 



345 



perhaps it might be better to kill them all, and have 
them stuffed ; and this whim he actually carried into 
effect. 

Voigt mentioned that he had thoughts of translating 
Cuvier's " Natural History," and publishing it, with 
some additions of his own. 

After dinner, when Voigt had gone, Goethe showed 
me the manuscript of his Walpurgis Nacht, and I was 
astonished to see to .what bulk it had grown. 

Wednesday, 3d March. 

Went to walk with Goethe before dinner. He 
spoke favorably of my poem on the King of Bavaria, 
observing that Lord Byron had had a favorable 
influence upon me, but that I still wanted that tact 
and propriety of which Voltaire was such a master; 
and he recommended me to take Voltaire as my model 
in this respect. 

At table, we talked of Wieland, more particularly 
of his " Oberon ; " and Goethe was of opinion that the 
foundation of this poem was weak, and that the plan 
had not been sufficiently thought over before the 
author began to work upon it. It was not well judged 
to let the Fairy King procure the hairs and teeth, 
because the hero is left inactive all that time. But the 
pregnant, graceful, picturesque treatment of the sub- 
ject makes the book so attractive to the reader that 
he never thinks of these faults. 

We continued talking on various subjects, till at 
last we came upon Entelecheia. 

" The obstinacy of the individual, and the power 
possessed by man of shaking off what does not suit 



346 



ECKERMANN. 



him," said Goethe, " is to me a proof that some such 
thing exists." 

I was just thinking the same thing, and was the 
better pleased when Goethe spoke it out. 

" Leibnitz," continued he, " had similar thoughts 
about such independent existences ; and, indeed, what 
we style Entelecheia is the same with his Monads." 

I resolved to read Leibnitz on this subject. 

Sunday, 7th March. 

Went to Goethe about twelve, and found him in fine 
health and spirits. He said he must lay aside the 
Walpurgis night for a while, to attend to the new 
edition of his works. 

" I have been wise enough," said he, " to stop short 
in mid career while I had yet many things in my mind 
to say. Thus it will be much easier to me to join on 
again, than if I had continued to write till I came to 
a stand." I marked this in my mind as a valuable 
precept. 

We were to have taken a drive before dinner, but 
found it so pleasant within doors, that Goethe had the 
horses taken out. 

Meanwhile, the servant, Frederic, had been un- 
packing a great chest, just come from Paris. It was a 
present from David, the sculptor — bass-relief portraits, 
in plaster, of fifty-seven celebrated persons. We had 
great pleasure in examining them, and observing 
characteristic traits. 

I was particularly interested by Merimee ; the head 
was powerful and bold as his genius, and, as Goethe 
remarked, had somewhat of the humorist. Victor 



CONVERSATIONS. 



347 



Hugo, Alfred de Vigny, Emile Deschamps, showed 
themselves as free, tranquil, and of decided character. 
We were rejoiced to see Mademoiselle Gay, Madame 
Tastii, and other young female writers. The powerful 
head of Fabvier reminded us of the men of earlier 
ages ; we looked at it again and again. 

Goethe said repeatedly that he could not. adequately 
show his gratitude to David for sending him such a 
treasure. He would show this collection to strangers, 
and, in that way, get light on some of these personages, 
who were not well known to him. 

Some books also were in the chest, which he had 
taken into another room. Before looking at them, we 
were to dine. We had a very pleasant talk on plans 
and modes of working. 

"It is not good for man to be alone," said Goethe. 
" He needs sympathy and suggestion to do any thing 
well. I owe to Schiller ' Achilleis,' and many of my 
ballads, to which he urged me; and shall be in like 
manner indebted to you, if I should complete the 
second part of ' Faust.' I have often said so before, 
but I repeat it, to make sure that you are aware 
of it." 

These words rejoiced me, for I felt that there was 
much truth in what he said. After dinner, Goethe 
opened one of the packets. This contained the poems 
of Emile Deschamps, accompanied by a letter, which 
Goethe showed me. I saw with delight what influence 
was attributed to Goethe over the new life of French 
literature, and how the young poets loved and revered 
him as their intellectual head. So had Shakspeare 
worked upon the youth of Goethe. It could not be 



348 



ECKERMANN. 



said of Voltaire, that he had any such influence on 
the young poets of other countries ; so that they 
combined to work according to his ideas, esteeming 
him as their teacher and master. The letter of 
Deschamps was written with a charming cordiality and 
freedom. 

"You see there the spring time of a beautiful 
mind," said Goethe. 

We found also a leaf, which David had sent with 
various drawings of the hats of Napoleon. 

''That is something for my son," said Goethe, and 
sent him the leaf immediately. 

The young Goethe came down, full of glee, declaring 
that these hats were the non plus ultra for his 
collection. Five minutes had not passed before the 
leaf, under glass and in a frame, was in its place 
among other mementoes of the hero. 

Next day, Herr von Goethe came to see me, and 
informed me that he was now to set forth on his long- 
expected journey to Italy ; that his father had given 
him the necessary sum, and that he wished I should 
be his companion. We rejoiced together, and talked 
over our preparations. 

At noon I went to Goethe's house. As soon as 
I came in, he beckoned me to the window. He 
expressed his satisfaction at his son's project, and 
spoke with pleasure of the advantages I should derive 
from it as to my general culture. 

He showed me then a Christ with twelve apostles, 
and we spoke of the imperfections of such figures as 
subjects for the sculptor. 

" One apostle," said Goethe, " generally looks just 



CONVERSATIONS. 



349 



as the other; for very few have lives and deeds which 
would give them distinct character and meaning. I 
have lately amused myself with inventing a cycle of 
twelve biblical figures, where each one has meaning, 
each a distinct character, and therefore each one 
is a suitable object for the artist. 

" First, Adam, the handsomest of men, as perfect 
in his form as can be imagined. He may lean one 
hand upon a spade, as a symbol that it is the vocation 
of man to till the earth. 

" Next, Noah, with whom a new creation begins. 
He cultivates the vine ; and this figure may have 
something of the expression of the Indian Bacchus. 

" Next, Moses, as the first lawgiver. 

" Then, David, warrior and king. 

" Next, Isaiah, prince and prophet. 

w Daniel, as bearing a reference to the future Mes- 
siah. 

" Christ. 

" Next to him, John, who loves the present Mes- 
siah. 

" In this way, Christ would be placed between two 
youthful figures; of which, the one, Daniel, should be 
painted as of a gentle countenance, with long hair ; 
but John with more impassioned looks, and short, 
clustering locks. 

" The Captain of Capernaum, as a representative 
of the believing souls, who were expecting immediate 
assistance. 

" Next, Mary Magdalene, as representative of the 
penitent — of those who need forgiveness and ref- 
ormation. 

EE 



350 



ECKERMANN. 



" The idea of Christianity is contained in these two 
figures. 

" Then Paul might come, who most contributed to 
spread abroad the new law. 

" Then James, who went to the farthest nations, and 
represents missionaries. 

" You might close with Peter. The artist should 
place him near the door, and give him an expression, 
as if he were carefully examining those who wish to 
enter, to see whether they are worthy the sanctuary. 

" What say you to this cycle? Would it not be 
richer than that of the twelve apostles, where each 
looks just like the others ? I would paint the Moses 
and the Magdalen sitting." 

I begged Goethe to put this on paper, and he 
promised to do so, and give it me for the thirty-ninth 
volume. 

#• * * * # * # * 

Sunday, 21st March. 

Dined with Goethe. He spoke upon the journey 
of his son, and that we ought not to delude ourselves 
with over-great expectations. 

" Men usually come back much as they went away," 
said he ; " indeed, we must beware lest we return 
with thoughts which unfit us for the life we must 
afterwards leave. I brought from Italy the idea of 
their fine staircases, and have consequently spoiled 
my house since, by introducing such a one there; 
the rooms are all smaller than they should have been. 
The most important thing is to learn to rule oneself. 



CONVERSATIONS. 



351 



If I gave way to my impulses, I have such as might 
ruin me and all about me." 

We talked then about ill health, and about the 
reciprocal influences of body and mind. 

" The mind," said Goethe, «' is capable of incredible 
efforts to sustain the body. I suffer much from pain 
and oppression, but a strong will keeps me up. The 
mind need only refuse to indulge the body. Thus I 
cannot work as well when the barometer stands low, 
as when it is high : since I have observed this, I have 
exerted myself the more when it is low, and not 
without success. 

" But there are things in the way of poetry which 
suffer no constraint ; and we must wait the favorable 
hour for what we cannot obtain by mental determination. 
So I have left myself time for my classical Carnival, 
that I may work upon it in the fulness of strength 
and serenity. 

" I have endeavored to make distinct sketches of 
every part, in the true antique style, so that there may 
be nothing vague or undecided, which might suit 
the romantic style well enough. 

" The idea of the distinction between classical and 
romantic poetry, which is spread over the civilized 
world, and occasioned so many quarrels and divisions, 
came originally from Schiller and myself. I preferred 
an objective treatment in poetry, and drew thence my 
rules of criticism ; but Schiller, who worked in the 
subjective way, defended his own fashion, and wrote, 
with that design, the treatise upon • Naive and Sen- 
timental Poetry.' He proved to me that I myself, 



352 



ECKERMANN. 



though against my will, was a romantic poet, and 
my ' Iphigenia ' too much animated by sentiment to 
be as classical as some people supposed. 

" The Schlegels took up this idea, and carried it 
further, so that it has since been diffused over the 
whole world ; and now every one talks about classical 
and romantic — a distinction of which nobody dreamed 
fifty years ago." 

I turned the conversation again upon the cycle 
of twelve figures, and Goethe further explained it to 
me thus — 

" It would be best to take Adam after the fall : 
therefore he should be clothed with a thin deer-skin ; 
and, at the same time, in order to express that he is 
the father of the human race, it would be well to place 
by him his eldest son, a fearless boy, looking boldly 
about him — a little Hercules stifling a snake in his 
hand. 

" And I have had another thought about Noah, 
which pleases me better. I would not have him like 
an Indian Bacchus ; but I will have him as a vintager, 
which would give the idea of a benefactor, who, as 
fosterer of the vine, made men free from the sorrows 
of care and poverty." 

He showed me the engraving of Neureuther, for his 
legend of the horse-shoe. 

" The artist," said I, " has given the Savior only 
eight disciples." 

" Eight are too many," replied Goethe; " and he did 
wisely to divide them into two groups, and thus avoid 
the monotony of an unmeaning procession." 



CONVERSATIONS. 



353 



Wednesday, 34th March. 

The pleasantest conversation at table to-day with 
Goethe. He told me about a French poem which he 
had found, in manuscript, in the collection of David, 
under the title " The Laugh of Mirabeau." 

"This poem is full of spirit and boldness," said 
Goethe. " You must see it. It seems as if Mephis- 
tophiles had prepared the ink for the poet. It is great 
if he wrote it without having read ' Faust,' and no less 
great if he had read it." 

Wednesday, 21st April. 

I took my leave to-day of Goethe, as we were to set 
out next morning early for Italy. He charged me to 
observe very carefully, and write to him now and then. 
I felt some pain at bidding him farewell ; but the sight 
of his firm health, and my trust that we should meet 
again in happiness, were my comfort. 

He gave me an album, in which he had written 
these words — 

" TO THE TRAVELLER. 

" ' Es geht vorüber eh' ich's gewahr werde, 
Und verwandelt sich eh' ich's merke.' 1 

"Weimar, 21st April, 1830." 

[Here follows a short sketch of Eckermann's visit 
to Italy. A few letters are inserted from Goethe, 

1 [ " Lo, he goeth by me, and I see him not; he passeth on also, 
but I perceive him not." Job. — Transl.] 



354 



ECKERMANN. 



of little interest, chiefly valuable as showing the 
confidence and affection which he felt towards the 
absent friend. In November, Eckermann set out 
on his return to Weimar, leaving young Goethe 
behind him in Italy. On his journey, Eckermann 
heard, at an inn on the road to Göttingen, of that 
blow, — the last and heaviest of Goethe's life, — the 
death of his only son. He says — ] 

I took a light, and went to my chamber, that I 
might not exhibit my agitation before strangers. I 
passed a sleepless night. I could not, for a moment, 
forget the misfortune which touched me so nearly. 
On the journey, I fared no better. Vainly did I seek, 
in the desolate country, beneath a gloomy November 
sky, for some object that might distract my attention; 
whenever I stopped at an inn, I heard the subject 
of my grief mentioned as the latest topic of the day. 
I was most of all distressed by the fear that Goethe, 
at so advanced an age, could not outlive the tempest 
of paternal grief. 

" And what an impression," said I to myself, " must 
my return produce ! I, who went out with his son, 
and now come back alone! He will feel, when he 
sees me, as if he had never before realized his 
loss ! " 

Amid such thoughts and feelings, I reached Weimar, 
at six o'clock, the evening of the 23d November. I 
felt once again what cruel moments human beings 
must go through. In thought, I conversed with 
higher beings ; and when the moon, which had been 
veiled in thick clouds, emerged for a few moments, 



CONVERSATIONS. 



355 



I received it, whether accident or no, as a token 
of favor from above, and was thus unexpectedly 
strengthened and reassured. 

I went almost immediately to Goethe's house. I 
saw first Frau von Goethe. I found her already clad 
in deep mourning, but collected and tranquil ; and we 
had much to say to one another. 

I then went to Goethe. He stood upright and firm, 
and clasped me in his arms. I found him perfectly 
serene and tranquil. We sat down, and began to talk 
immediately. I was extremely happy in being with 
him once more. He showed me two letters which 
he had begun while I was at Nordheim, but did not 
send. We talked of the Grand Duchess, the Prince, 
and many others ; but no word was said of his son. 

Thursday, 25th November. 

Goethe sent me some books, which had arrived as 
presents for me from English and German authors. 

At noon, I went to him. I found him looking at 
a portfolio of engravings and drawings, which had 
been offered him for sale. He told me he had had 
the pleasure, that morning, of a visit from the Grand 
Duchess, to whom he had mentioned my return. 

Frau von Goethe joined us, and we sat down to 
dinner. Goethe asked an account of my travels. I 
spoke of Milan, Venice, Genoa; and he seemed 
particularly interested about the family of the English 
consul there. I then spoke of Geneva ; and he asked 
with sympathy after the Soret family, and Herr von 
Bonstetten. He wished a particular account of this 
last, and I satisfied him as well as I could. 



356 



ECKERMANN. 



After dinner, I was pleased that he spoke of my 
" Conversations." 

"It must be your first work," said he; " and we 
will not let it go till the whole be distinct and 
complete." 

But Goethe to-day appeared to me unusually silent, 
and oftentimes lost in thought, which I feared was 
no good sign. 

Tuesday, 30th November. 
Last Friday, we were thrown into a state of great 
anxiety. Goethe was seized with a hemorrhage in the 
night, and was near death all the day. He lost, counting 
the vein they opened, six pounds of blood — a great 
quantity, at his age. However, the great skill of his 
physician, Hofrath Vogel, and his incomparable con- 
stitution, have saved him this time. He recovers 
rapidly, has already an excellent appetite, and sleeps 
again all night. Nobody is admitted, as he is for- 
bidden to speak ; but his always active mind cannot 
rest. He is already thinking of his work. This 
morning, I received from him the following note, 
written in bed, with a lead pencil : — 

" Have the goodness, my best Doctor, to look yet 
once again at the accompanying poems, and to 
rearrange the others, so as to adapt these to their 
place in the whole. ' Faust ' shall presently follow. 

" In hope of a happy meeting, 

" Goethe, 

" Weimar, 30th November, 1830." 



CONVERSATIONS. 



357 



As soon as Goethe had recovered, he busied himself 
with finishing " Faust," and with the fourth volume 
of Dichtung und Wahrheit. 

He wished me to examine his heretofore unpub- 
lished writings, his journals and letters, that we 
might know exactly what we had best do about the 
new edition. 

Examining my "Conversations" with him was at 
present out of the question. I thought it wiser, 
instead of arranging what I had already, to add to 
my stock while opportunity was still vouchsafed me 
by a kindly fate. 

1831. 

[Some pages are here occupied by an account of 
the method which Eckermann proposed to adopt in 
publishing Goethe's letters. He detailed it to Goethe, 
who replied — ] 

" I will appoint you, in my will, editor of these 
letters, and mention that we agreed entirely as to the 
method best to adopt in their arrangement." 

* # * # # # # * 

Apropos to some remarks upon Voss's "Luise," 
Goethe said — 

" The critics, now-a-days, trouble themselves greatly 
if in rhyme an s instead of a ss alternates with an s ; 
such is the devotion to the technics of poetry. Were 
I young and daring enough, I would, intentionally, 
sin against their technical fastidiousness. I would use 
alliterations, assonances, and false rhymes, whenever 
they came in my way, and suited my convenience. I 
would fix my attention on what is important, and say 



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such good things, that every one would be anxious to 
read and learn them by heart." 

Friday, 11th February, 1831. 

Goethe spoke with high praise of Carl Schöne, a 
young philologist of Leipsic, who has written a work 
upon the costume proper for the plays of Euripides ; 
and, though possessed of extensive learning, has made 
use of it only so far as was necessary to his aim. 

" I am delighted," said Goethe, " to see the 
productive intelligence with which he seizes upon 
his subject ; for other philologists have of late wasted 
much time upon technics, and long and short 
syllables. 

" Too great attention to technical minutiae is a 
sign of an unproductive time and an unproductive 
individual. 

" Some have other hinderances. Count Platen, for 
instance, has almost all the essentials for a good 
poet — imagination, invention, soul to feel, fertility to 
reproduce ; he is complete in the technical part, and 
has a studiousness and an earnestness which few could 
rival ; but he is hindered by his unfortunate polemical 
tendency. That he cannot, amid the magnificence 
of Rome and Naples, forget the paltry concerns of 
German literature, is unpardonable in a man of such 
abilities. 

" The ' Romantic CEdipus' gives tokens that, espe- 
cially as to technics, Platen was just the man to write 
a first-rate German tragedy ; but how will he do it 
after he has used the springs of tragedy to set his 
parody in motion ? 



CONVERSATIONS. 



359 



" And then (what is not duly kept in mind) these 
quarrels occupy the thoughts ; the images of our foes 
are like ghosts gliding between us and all free 
creation, and disturbing the otherwise sufficiently 
fragile harmony of nature. 

" Lord Byron was ruined by his love for polemics ; 
and Platen should, for the honor of German literature, 
quit forever a path which can lead to no good." 

Saturday, 12th February. 

I have been reading in the New Testament, and 
thinking of a picture Goethe showed me of Christ 
walking on the water, and Peter coming towards him, 
at the moment when the apostle begins to sink, in 
consequence of losing his faith for a moment. 

" This," said Goethe, " is a most beautiful history, 
and one which I love better than any. It expresses 
the noble doctrine, that man, through faith and 
animated courage, may come off victor in the most 
dangerous enterprises, while he may be ruined by a 
momentary paroxysm of doubt." 

Sunday, 13th February. 

Goethe told me that he was engaged with the fourth 
act of " Faust," and had succeeded to his wish in 
the beginning. 

"I had," said he, "long since the what, as you 
know, but was not easy about the how ; it is the more 
pleasant that good thoughts come to me. 

" I will now invent throughout, from * Helena ' to the 
fifth act, which is finished, and make out a detailed 



360 



ECKERMANN. 



plan, that I may work with pleasure and security on 
parts, as they attract me. 

" This act is to bear a quite peculiar character, so 
that it, like a by-itself-existing little world, need never 
touch the others, and is only connected with the 
whole by a slight reference to what precedes and 
follows it." 

" It will also," said I, ''be perfectly in character 
with the rest; for, in fact, are not Auerbach's cellar, 
the witches' kitchen, the Blocksberg, the imperial diet, 
the masquerade, the paper money, the laboratory, 
the classic Walpurgis night, Helena, also by them- 
selves, existing little worlds, which, each shut up 
within itself, do indeed work upon, yet do not depend 
upon, one another ? The poet, wishing to speak out 
a manifold world, uses the story of a famous personage 
as a thread on which he may string what he pleases. 
Even so are ' Gil Bias ' and the ' Odyssey ' con- 
structed." 

" True," said Goethe ; " and what is important in 
such compositions is, that the parts should be clear 
and significant, while the whole is incommensurable, 
and even on that account, like an unsolved problem, 
lures men to busy themselves with it again and 
again." 

I spoke of a letter from a young soldier, whom I 
and other friends had advised to go into foreign 
service. Now, not being pleased with his situation, 
he blames his advisers. 

" When one," said Goethe, " has looked about him 
in the world long enough, to see how the most 



CONVERSATIONS. 



361 



judicious enterprises frequently fail, and the most 
absurd have the good fortune to succeed, he becomes 
disinclined to give any one advice. At bottom, he 
who asks advice shows himself limited ; he who gives 
it gives also proof that he is presumptuous. If any one 
asks me for good advice, I say I will give it, but only 
on condition that you will promise not to take it." 

The conversation turning on the New Testament, 
I mentioned that I had been reading again the 
account of Christ walking on the sea, &,c. 

" When one has not, for some time, read the 
Evangelists," said T, " he is astonished at the moral 
grandeur of the figures. We find in the lofty demands 
made upon our moral power of will a sort of categor- 
ical imperative." 

" Especially," said Goethe, " do we find the 
categorical imperative of faith, which, indeed, Ma- 
homet carried still farther." 

" For the rest," said I, " the Evangelists are, if you 
look closely into them, full of differences and contradic- 
tions ; and the books must have gone through strange 
revolutions of destiny, before they were brought 
together in their present arrangement." 

" 'Tis like trying to drink out a sea," said Goethe, 
" to enter into an historical and critical examination 
of them. Tt is the best way to appropriate from what is 
really there such portions as we can use, to strengthen 
our characters and advance our moral culture. But, as 
it is pleasant to get a clear notion of the localities, 
I recommend to you Röhr's admirable book on 
Palestine. The late Grand Duke was so pleased 
with this book, that he bought it twice, givi^sr the 

F F 



362 



ECKERMANN. 



first copy to the library, after he had read it, and 
keeping the other always by him." 

I wondered that the Grand Duke should take an 
interest in this subject. 

" Therein," said Goethe, " was he great. He was 
interested in every thing significant, in whatsoever 
department it lay. He was always progressive, and 
sought to domesticate all the good inventions and 
institutions of his time. If any failed, he spoke of 
it no more. I often thought how I should excuse 
to him this or that failure ; but he always ignored it 
in the cheerfulest way, and was immediately engaged 
with some new plan. This greatness was a part of 
his being — not acquired, but inborn." 

We looked, after dinner, at some engravings, from 
pictures by the most modern artists. 

* * * # * # * * 

" You see," said Goethe, " that none of these are 
manly. Good natural talents are here, that have 
attained a high degree of taste and skill. But 
manliness, (mark and underscore the word,) a certain 
determined energy which was always to be found 
in the earlier ages, is wanting to the present, not 
only in painting, but in all the other arts. The 
present is a weaker race, whether by birth, or from 
some fault in their education and nourishment." 

# # # # # # * * 

" Certainly, in art and poetry, the personality of the 
artist is all in all, though certain weak critics and 
connoisseurs of our day will not acknowledge this, 
and treat a grand personality as an accessory of little 
importance to a work. 



CONVERSATIONS. 



363 



" But, really, in order to feel and admire a grand 
personality, a man must himself be somewhat. All 
who have denied Euripides the praise of sublimity, 
were either poor herrings, incapable of such exaltation, 
or shameless charlatans, who, by dint of presumption, 
seemed to the world more than they really were." 

Monday, 14th February. 
* # # * *# # # 
Dined with Goethe. 

" It is remarkable," said I, " that, of all talents, 
the musical shows itself earliest ; so that Mozart 
in his fifth, Beethoven in his eighth, and Hummel 
in his ninth year, astonished all near them by their 
performance and compositions." 

''The musical talent," said Goethe, "may well 
show itself earliest of any ; for it is innate ; its life 
is within ; it needs little nourishment from without, 
and little experience drawn from life. Really, an 
apparition like that of Mozart remains always an 
inexplicable prodigy. But how would the Divinity 
find every where opportunity to do wonders, if it did 
not sometimes try its powers on extraordinary indi- 
viduals, at whom we stand astonished, unable to 
understand whence they come 1 " 

Tuesday, 15th February. 

Dined with Goethe. I told him about the theatre ; 
he praised the piece given yesterday — " Henry III.," 
by Dumas — as of great excellence, but found it very 
natural that such a dish should not suit the public. 

"I should not," said he, "have ventured to give it, 



364 



ECKERMANN. 



when I was director ; for I remember well what 
trouble we had to smuggle upon the public the 
' Constant Prince,' which has far more general human 
interest, is more poetic, and lies nearer us, than 
' Henry III.'" 

I spoke of the "Grand Cophta," which I had been 
re-perusing. I expressed a wish to see it on the 
stage. 

" I am pleased," said Goethe, " that you like that 
piece, and find there what I have labored to put in. It 
was indeed no little labor to make an entirely real 
fact first poetical, and then theatrical. And yet you 
will grant that it is, throughout, suited to the stage. 
Schiller was, also, very partial to it ; and we gave it 
once, with brilliant effect, for the higher order of men. 
But it is not for the public in general ; the criminal 
transactions preserve an apprehensive character, which 
prevents their coming home to the people. Its bold 
character places it, indeed, in the sphere of ' Clara 
Gazul ; ' and the French poet might envy me for taking 
from him so good a subject ; — so good a subject, 
because not merely of moral, but also of great 
historical significance ; for this fact immediately pre- 
ceded the French Revolution, and was, in some sort, 
its foundation. That fatal story of the necklace 
destroyed the dignity of the Queen, and deprived 
her of esteem ; thus she lost, in the eyes of the people, 
that stand-point where she was unassailable. Hate 
injures no one ; it is contempt that casts men 
headlong. Kotzebue had been hated long: but not 
till certain journals had made him contemptible, did 
the student dare to use his dagger upon him ! " 



CONVERSATIONS. 



365 



Thursday, 17th February. 

Dined with Goethe. I brought him his " Residence 
at Carlsbad," from the year 1807, which I had finished 
examining that morning. We spoke of wise passages 
inserted there as hasty remarks of the day. 

" People always fancy," said Goethe, laughing, 
" that we cannot become wise, without becoming old 
also; but, in truth, as years accumulate, it is hard 
to keep ourselves as wise as we were. Man becomes, 
in the different stages of his life, indeed, a different 
being ; but he cannot say that he will surely be a 
better as he goes onward, and, in certain matters, 
he is as likely to be right in his twentieth, as in his 
sixtieth year. 

" We see the world one way from a plain, another 
way from the promontory, another from the glacier 
fields of the Alps. We see, from one of these 
points, a larger piece of world than from the other ; 
but who can say that we see most truly from any one 
of them ? When a writer leaves monuments on the 
different steps of his life, it is chiefly important that 
he should have from nature a foundation, and good- 
will ; that he should, at each step, see and feel clearly, 
and say distinctly and truly, what has passed in his 
mind. Then will his writings, if they were true to 
the season in which they originated, remain always 
true and right, however the writer may unfold or 
alter. 

" Lately, I found, on a piece of waste paper, some- 
thing that pleased me. I said to myself, ' Thou 
wouldst have said much the same.' But, as I looked 
more closely at the leaf, it was from one of my own 



366 



ECKERMANN. 



works. For, as I am always striving onwards, I forget 
what I have written, and soon regard my things as 
foreign matter." 

I asked about " Faust." 

" That," said Goethe, " will not again let me loose. 
I daily think and invent more and more upon it. 1 
have now had the whole manuscript of the second 
part sewed into books, that it may lie a palpable mass 
before my eye. The place of the yet wanting fourth 
act is filled with white paper ; and, undoubtedly, what 
is finished will allure and urge me to complete the 
whole. There is more than is thought in these 
matters of sense, and we must come to the aid of the 
spiritual by all manner of devices." 

He sent for the manuscript, and I was surprised 
to see how much he had written. 

" And all," said I, " in the six years that I have 
been here, amid so many occupations and hinderances ! 
How much a work grows, even if we can only now 
and then attend to it ! " 

" Of that one is still more convinced as he grows 
older," said Goethe ; " while youth believes all must 
be done in one day. Next spring, if fortune favor, 
and I continue in good health, I hope to get a great 
way on with this fourth act. It was, as you know, 
long since invented ; only the other parts have, in the 
mean time, grown so much that I can use only the 
outline of my first invention for this, and must fill out 
so as to make it of a piece with the rest." 

"A far richer world is displayed," said I, " in this 
second part than in the first." 

" I should think so," said Goethe. " The first part 



CONVERSATIONS. 367 

is almost entirely subjective ; it proceeded from that 
oppressed, impassioned state of the individual charac- 
ter, whose semi-darkness excites such agreeable feelings 
in the minds of men. But, in the second part, there 
is scarce any thing of the subjective ; here is seen a 
higher, broader, clearer, more passionless world, and 
he who has not lived and looked about him some time, 
will not know what to make of it." 

" There may be found exercise for thought," said I ; 
" some learning is also needful. I was glad that I had 
read Schelling's Kabirenschrift ; for else had I not 
known the meaning of that famous passage in the 
Walpurgis night." 

" I have always found," said Goethe, laughing, 
" that it is well to know something." 

«► 

Friday, 18th February. 
Dined with Goethe. We talked of different forms 
of government ; and it was remarked what difficulties 
a too liberal form presents, calling forth the demands 
of individuals, and wishes in such multitudes, that 
it is hopeless to try to satisfy them. It will be found 
that the greatest goodness, mildness, and moral del- 
icacy, in those who have the upper places, will not 
suffice, while they have beneath, a mixed and vicious 
world to manage and hold in respect. 

It was also remarked that the art of governing is 
a great one, requiring the whole man, and that it is 
therefore not well for a ruler to have too strong 
tendencies to other affairs ; the fine arts, for instance, 
by which means not only the interest of the Prince, 
but the powers of the State must be withdrawn from 



3G8 



ECKERMANN. 



what is more necessary. An overruling partiality for 
the fine arts suits best a rich private man. 

Goethe told me that his " Metamorphosis of Plants," 
with Soret's translation, was going on well, and that, 
in his supplementary labors on these subjects, par- 
ticularly on the " Spiral," quite unexpected favorable 
things had come to his aid from without. 

"We have," said he, "as you know, been busy 
with this translation already more than a year; a 
thousand hinderances have come in our way ; the 
enterprise has often stood still, quite refractory, and 
I have often cursed it in silence. But now I could do 
reverence to those very hinderances ; for these delays 
have given opportunity for excellent men to ripen 
matters abroad, which now bring the finest water to 
my mill, and will bring my work to a far better 
conclusion than I could have imagined a year ago. 
The like has often happened to me in life ; and 
thence one is led to believe in the interposition 
of a demoniacal power — a higher influence, which 
we adore without presuming to explain it." 

Saturday, 19th February. 

Dined at Goethe's, with Hofrath Vogel. A slight 
sketch of the island Heligoland had been sent to 
Goethe, which he read with great interest, telling us 
what he found important in it. 

Vogel told, as news of the day, how the natural 
small-pox, in defiance of inoculation, had broken out 
in Eisenach, carrying many off in a short time. 

" Nature," said Vogel, " plays us a trick every now 
and then; and we must waylay her, if our theory is to 



CONVERSATIONS. 



3G9 



keep up with her. Inoculation was thought so sure 
a remedy, that a law was made to enforce it ; but this 
Eisenach affair, in which the natural followed the 
artificial disease, makes the remedy suspicious, and 
weakens the law." 

l ' Yet," said Goethe, " I would enforce inoculation 
as strictly as before : these little exceptions should 
not be thought of when compared with the immeas- 
urable benefits it has conferred." 

" I think so too," said Vogel, " and am inclined to 
maintain that, in all such cases as this of Eisenach, 
the inoculation was imperfect. If inoculation is to 
be a protection, it must induce fever ; mere irritation 
of the skin, without fever, is not enough. I have, 
therefore, proposed a measure to-day to the council, 
which, I think, will insure safety." 

Sunday, 20th February. 
# * # * * * * * 
" It is natural to man," said Goethe, " to regard 
himself as the object of the creation, and to think 
of all things in relation to himself, and the degree 
in which they can serve and be useful to him. He 
takes possession of the animal and vegetable world, 
and, while he swallows other creatures as his proper 
food, he acknowledges his God, and thanks the 
paternal kindness which has made such provision 
for him. He takes her milk from the cow, honey 
from the bee, wool from the sheep, and, while he 
turns these things to his own use, believes they were 
made for him. Indeed, he cannot believe that the 



370 



ECKERMANN. 



smallest herb is here, except for his use, and, if he 
has not yet found out how to serve himself with it, 
doubts not he shall do so at some future time. But, 
if he aims at science, he soon finds that progress is 
inconsistent with such low views. 

" These utilitarian teachers say, ' The ox has horns 
to defend himself.' Then I ask, ' Why has the sheep 
none ? or, if he has, why are they so wrapped up 
with his ears as to be useless to him ? ' But it is 
another thing if I say, 'The ox defends himself with' 
his horns because he has them. ' 

" Inquiry after the aim, the question wherefore, is, 
at any rate, not scientific. We get a little further 
with the question how ; for, if I ask, ' How is it that 
the ox has horns ? ' I am led to examine his organi- 
zation, and learn at the same time why the lion 
neither has nor can have horns. 

" So has man in his skull two unfilled cavities. 
The question lohercfore would not carry us far ; but 
the question hoio teaches us that these hollows are 
remains of the animal organization frequently to be 
met in those lower organizations, which man, with 
all his dignity, has not yet got beyond. 

" The teachers of whom I speak would think they 
lost their divinity, if they did not adore him who 
gave the ox horns to defend himself with. But let 
them permit me to venerate him who was so great 
in the magnificence of his creations, as, after making 
a thousand-fold plants, to comprehend them all in one ; 
and, after a thousand-fold animals, to make that one 
which comprehends them all — Man. 

" Further, they venerate him who gives the beast 



CONVERSATIONS. 



371 



his fodder, and to man meat and drink, as much 
as he can enjoy. But 1 worship him who has infused 
into the world such a power of production, that, 
if only the millionth part of it should pass out into 
life, the world must swarm with creatures to such 
a degree that war, pestilence, fire, and water cannot 
prevail against them. That is my God ! " 

Monday, 21st February. 

Goethe praised Schelling's last discourse, delivered 
for the satisfaction of the students at Munich. 

" It is good through and through," said he ; " and 
we rejoice once again at the distinguished talents 
which we have long known and admired. In this 
case he had an excellent subject and a worthy design, 
and his success has been proportionably great. If the 
same could be said of the subject and design of his 
Kabirensclirift, that would claim equal praise, he 
has displayed in it such rhetorical talent and art." 

From this we were led to the Walpurgis night. 

" The old Walpurgis night," said Goethe, " is 
monarchical, while the devil is there throughout 
respected as chief. But the classic Walpurgis night 
is republican ; while all stand on a plain near one 
another, so that each is as prominent as his asso- 
ciates, nobody is subordinated or troubled about the 
others." 

"And," said I, "the classic assembly is composed 
of sharply outlined individualities, while, on the 
German Blocksberg, each individuality is lost in the 
general witch-mass." 

** Therefore," said Goethe, " Mephistophiles knows 



372 



ECKERMANN. 



what is meant when the Homunculus speaks to him 
of Thcssalian witches. One acquainted with ancient 
times will have many thoughts suggested by these 
words, (Thessalian witches,) while, to the unlearned, 
it remains a mere name." 

" Antiquity," said I, " must be very living to you, 
else you could not endow the figures with such fresh 
new life, and use them with such freedom as you 
have." 

" Without a life-long acquaintance with plastic 
art," said Goethe, " it would not have been possible 
to me. The difficulty lay in observing due moderation 
amid such plenty, and resolutely avoiding figures that 
did not fit into my plan. I avoided, for instance, 
using the Minotaur, the Harpies, and other monsters." 
* # # # * # * # 

Tuesday, 22d February. 
Upper-Consistorial Counsellor Schwabe met me in 
the street. I walked with him a little way; he told 
me of his manifold occupations, and I was interested 
in looking at the sphere of action of this distinguished 
man. He observed that he employed his spare hours 
in editing a volume of new sermons ; that one of his 
school-books had lately been translated into Danish, 
and forty thousand copies of it sold, and that it had 
been introduced into the best schools of Prussia. He 
begged me to visit him, which I gladly promised 
to do. 

At dinner, I spoke to Goethe of Schwabe, and 
he agreed entirely with my praises of him. 

" The Grand Duchess," said he, " who always 



CONVERSATIONS. 



373 



appreciates the people she has about her so justly, 
values him at a high rate. You do well to visit him, 
and I should like to have you ask his permission for 
me to have a drawing of him for my collection of 
portraits. 

" If you show sympathy in what he is doing and 
planning, you will have an opportunity of observing 
a peculiar sphere of action, which cannot be rightly 
understood, unless by close intercourse with such 
a man." 

Wednesday, 23d February. 

I took a drive with Goethe. 

# # * * # # # # 

We spoke of the high significance of the original 
phenomena, ( Urphänomene,) behind which we believe 
the Divinity may directly be discerned. 

" I ask not," said Goethe, " whether this highest 
Being has reason and understanding, for I feel that 
He is Reason, is Understanding itself. Therewith 
are all creatures penetrated ; ai.id man so much so, 
that he can recognize parts of the Highest." 

At table, the efforts of certain inquirers into nature 
were mentioned to penetrate the organic world by 
ascending through mineralogy. 

" This," said Goethe, " is a great mistake. In 
the mineralogical world, the simplest, in the organic 
world, the most complex, is the most excellent. We 
see, too, that these two worlds have quite different 
tendencies, and that no stepwise progress from one 
to the other is to be expected." 

I treasured this remark as of great significance 

G G 



374 



ECKERMANN. 



Thursday, 24th February. 
" The difficulty with nature," said Goethe, " is, to 
see the law where it hides itself from us, and not to 
be led astray by appearances which are contradicted 
by our senses. Many things in nature, which are 
contradicted by our senses, are nevertheless true. 
That the sun stands still, neither rises nor sets, and 
that the earth turns about daily with inconceivable 
swiftness, contradicts our senses as much as any thing 
can ; yet no well-instructed person doubts that it is so. 
Even such contradictory phenomena are found in the 
world of plants ; and we must take heed lest they 
lead us astray." 

#*## ## 

Monday, 28th February. 

I busied myself all day with the manuscript of the 
fourth volume of Goethe's " Life," which he sent me 
yesterday, that I might see what was yet to be done 
to it. I was very happy with this work, thinking 
what it already is, and what it may become. Some 
books of it seem quite complete, and leave nothing 
further to wish. In others may be perceived a certain 
want of congruity, which may be caused by Goethe's 
having worked upon them at different times. 

All this fourth volume is quite different from the 
three that precede it. They are, throughout, pro- 
gressive in a given direction, so that the way passes 
through many years. In this one, time seems scarce 
to be in motion, and no decided exertions are percep- 
tible in the principal person. Many things are under- 
taken, but not finished; many willed, but otherwise 



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guided; every where we feel a secret influence, a kind 
of Destiny, drawing out many threads for the web 
which future years must complete. 

This volume, therefore, affords a suitable occasion 
to speak of that secret, problematical power, which 
all men feel, which no philosopher explains, and over 
which the religious help themselves with courageous 
words. 

Goethe names this unspeakable world and life- 
enigma the Demoniacal, {Dämonische ;) and, while 
he defines its existence, we feel that so it is, and a 
curtain seems to have been drawn away from a certain 
background of our life. We seem to see further and 
more clearly, but, after a while, perceive that the 
object is too great and manifold, and that our eyesight 
cannot penetrate beyond a certain limit. 

Man is born only for the Little ; only what is 
known to him can be appreciated by him, or give 
him pleasure. A great connoisseur understands a 
picture; he knows how to combine the various par- 
ticulars with the Universal, which is familiar to him; 
the whole is, to his mind, as living as any one part. 
Neither does he entertain a partiality for detached 
portions; he asks not whether such a face is ugly 
or beautiful, such a part clear or dark, but whether 
each be in its place, and in harmony with the law 
of the whole. Show an ignorant man a picture of 
some compass, and we shall see that, as a whole, it 
either does not move or confuses him ; that some parts 
attract, others repel him ; and that he at last abides 
by little things which are known to him, praising, 
perhaps, the execution of a helmet or plume. 



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ECKERMANN. 



But, in fact, we men play more or less the part of 
this ignoramus before the great destiny-picture of the 
world. The well-lighted parts, the Agreeable attracts 
us, the shadowy or unpleasant parts repel us, the whole 
confuses us, and we vainly seek the idea of a single 
being, to whom we attribute all these contradic- 
tions. 

And if it be possible, in human things, to become 
a great connoisseur, appropriating the art and knowl- 
edge of a master, yet, in divine things, this is only 
possible to a being equal in nature to the Highest. 
If any one attempts to make such mysteries clear to 
us, we cannot receive or understand what is offered ; 
but are like that ignoramus before the picture, to 
whom the connoisseur cannot impart the premises 
from which he judges by any forms of speech he can 
use. On this account is it right that forms of religion 
should not be bestowed directly by God himself, but 
should, as the work of eminent men, be conformed 
to the wants and the understanding of the masses. 
If they were the work of God, no man could under- 
stand them ; but, being the work of men, they do not 
express the Inscrutable. 

The religion of the highly-cultivated ancient Greeks 
went no further than to give sensible representations 
of attributes of this inscrutable essence. As only 
limited beings were thus produced, and a gap was 
obvious in the connection of the whole, they invented 
the idea of a Fate to preside over all. As this again 
remained a many-sided Inscrutable, the difficulty was 
rather set aside than met. 

Christ thought of a God, comprising all in one, 



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to whom he ascribed all properties which he found 
excellent in himself. This God was the essence of his 
own fair inward being ; full of love and goodness, like 
himself ; every way suited to induce good men to give 
themselves up trustingly to him, and to receive his 
Idea, as the sweetest connection with a higher sphere. 
But, as the great being whom we name the Divinity, 
manifests himself, not in men only, but in a rich, 
powerful nature, and mighty world-adventures, so, 
naturally, a representation of him, framed from human 
attributes, cannot be adequate, and the attentive 
observer will soon discern imperfections and con- 
tradictions, which will drive him to doubt, nay, to 
despair, unless he be either little enough to let himself 
be soothed by an artful evasion, or great enough to 
rise to the stand-point of a higher view. 

Such a stand-point Goethe early found in Spinoza ; 
and he acknowledges with joy how truly the views of 
that great thinker answered to the wants of his youth. 
In him he found himself, and could therefore fortify 
himself with Spinoza to the best advantage. 

And as their views were not of the subjective sort, 
but had their foundation in the works and manifesta- 
tions of God throughout the world, so were they not 
mere shells which he, after his own later, deeper search 
into the world and nature, threw aside as useless, but 
were the root and germ of a plant that grew up in 
healthy energy through many years, and at last 
unfolded the flower of a rich knowledge. 

His opponents have often accused him of having no 
faith ; but he had not such as theirs, simply because 



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it was too little for him. If he should speak out his 
own, they would be astonished ; but they would not 
be able to comprehend him. 

But Goethe is far from believing that he knows the 
highest being as it is. All his written and verbal 
expressions intimate that it is a somewhat inscruta- 
ble, to which men can only obtain approximating 
perceptions and feelings. 

For the rest, Nature and we men are so penetrated 
by the Divinity, that it holds us ; we live, weave, and 
are in it ; that we, under eternal laws, suffer and 
enjoy ; that we practise them, and they are practised 
on us, whether we recognize them or not. 

The child enjoys his cake without knowing who the 
baker was ; the sparrow the cherries, without thinking 
how they were made to grow. 

Wednesday, 2d March. 

I dined with Goethe, and, the conversation turning 
on Demonology, he said — 

" The Demoniacal is that which cannot be explained 
by Reason or Understanding ; it lies not in my nature, 
but I am subject to it." 

" Napoleon," said I, " seems to have been of the 
demoniacal sort." 

" He was so," said Goethe ; " so thoroughly, and in 
so high a degree, that scarce any one is to be 
compared with him. Also, our late Grand Duke was 
such a nature, full of unlimited power of action, and 
unrest, so that his own dominion was too little for him, 
and the greatest would have been too little. Demo- 



CONVERSATIONS. 



379 



niac beings of such sort the Greeks reckoned among 
their demigods." 

" Is not this element," said I, " perceptible in 
events also 1 " 

" In a high degree," said Goethe, '« and, indeed, in 
all which Reason and Understanding cannot explain. 
It manifests itself in all nature — in the invisible as in 
the visible. Many creatures are of purely demoniac 
sort ; in many are parts of it effective." 

"Has not Mephistophiles," said I, "traits of this 
nature 1 " 

" No," he replied, " Mephistophiles is too negative 
a being. The Demoniacal manifests itself in positive 
active power among artists : it is found often among 
musicians ; more rarely among painters. In Paganini, 
it shows itself in a high degree ; and it is by means 
of it that he produces such great effects." 

I was rejoiced at these remarks, which made more 
clear to me Goethe's notions of the Demoniacal. 

Thursday, 3d March. 
Went to Goethe at noon. Found him looking 
through some architectural designs. He observed 
it required good courage to build palaces, uncertain 
as we are how long one stone will remain upon 
another. 

" Those are most fortunate," said he, " who live in 
tents, or who, like some Englishmen, are always going 
from one city and inn to another, sure of finding every 
where a good table ready for them." 

Dined with Goethe. We talked of children and 
their naughty tricks, which Goethe compared to the 



380 



ECKERMANN. 



stem leaves of a plant, which fall away gradually of 
their own accord ; so that it is unnecessary to correct 
them with great severity. 

" Man," said he, " must go through various stages, 
each bringing with it its peculiar virtues and faults, 
which, in the epoch to which they belong, may be 
considered natural, and in a manner right. On the 
next step you see him another man ; there is no trace 
left of the earlier virtues or faults ; others have taken 
their places. And so on to the final transformation, 
after which we know not what we shall be." 

After dinner, Goethe read me fragments, which he 
had kept from 1775, of Hanswurst's wedding. Kilian 
Brustfleck opens the piece with a monologue, in which 
he complains that Hanswurst's education, despite all 
his care, has come to no good. This part, and all the 
others, were written in the tone of Faust. A produc- 
tive force, powerful even to wantonness, displayed 
itself in every line; and I could not but lament that 
it went so beyond all bounds, that even the fragments 
are not communicable. 

Goethe read me the list of the proposed dramatis 
perso?ice, nearly a hundred in number. All had sig- 
nificant nicknames ; some truly ludicrous : some 
expressed bodily defects, and so distinguished a 
figure, that it came like life before the eye ; others, 
taken from various follies and vices, gave a deep look 
into an immoral world. Had the piece been finished, 
the power must have excited wonder, that could give 
life to such various symbolical figures within the 
limits of one invention. 

" It was impossible for me to finish the piece," 



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381 



said Goethe; " for it demanded a degree of wanton 
daring, which I had for moments, but which did not 
lie in the general tenor of my nature, and on which 
I could not depend. Then our German circle is too 
limited to favor such an undertaking. On a broad 
ground, like Paris, one might venture on the giddy- 
whirl ; for there a Ber anger can live, which would be 
quite impossible at Frankfort or Weimar." 

Tuesday, 8th March. 

Goethe had been reading Ivanhoe. 

" Walter Scott," said he, " is a great genius; he has 
not his equal ; and we need not wonder at the extraor- 
dinary effect he has produced on the reading world. 
He gives me much to think of ; and I discover in him 
a wholly new art, with laws of its own." 

We spoke then of the fourth volume of the biog- 
raphy, and came .upon the subject of Demonology 
before we were aware. 

" In poetry," said Goethe, "especially in that which 
is unconscious, before which Reason and Understand- 
ing fall short, and which, therefore, produces effects 
so far surpassing all expectation, there is always 
something of the Demoniacal. 

" The same is true of music, in the highest degree. 
Understanding cannot reach its elevation, and influ- 
ences flow from it which master all, and of which 
none is able to give himself an account. Therefore 
cannot religious worship dispense with it ; it is one 
of the chief means of working wonders upon men. 
It throws itself willingly into significant individuals, 



382 



ECKERMANN. 



especially when they are in high places, like Frederic 
and Peter the Great. 

" Our late Grand Duke had it to such a degree, that 
nobody could resist him. He influenced men by his 
mere tranquil presence, without needing even to show 
himself good-humored and friendly. All that I under- 
took by his advice succeeded ; so that, when my own 
mind could not decide, I needed only to ask him, and 
he instinctively prescribed what was sure of happy 
results. 

" He would have been enviable indeed if he could 
have possessed himself of my ideas and higher 
strivings ; for when the demon forsook him, and only 
the human was left, he knew not how to set to work, 
and was much troubled at it. 

" In Byron, also, this element was probably very 
active, giving him such powers of attraction, especially 
with women." 

" In the idea of the Divinity," said I, by way of 
experiment, " this power, which we name the Demo- 
niacal, would not seem to enter." 

" Dear child," said Goethe, " what know we of the 
idea of the Divinity ? and what can our narrow ideas 
tell of the Highest Being? Should I, like a Turk, 
name it with a hundred names, I should still fall short, 
and, in comparison with the infinite attributes, have 
said nothing." 

Wednesday, 9th March. 
Goethe continued his acknowledgments to Sir 
Walter Scott. 



CONVERSATIONS. 



383 



" We read many, too many, poor things," said he ; 
" thus losing our time, and gaining nothing. We 
should only read what we can admire, as I did in 
my youth, and as I now experience with Sir Walter 
Scott. I have now begun " Rob Roy," and will read 
all his romances in succession. All is great — 
material, import, characters, execution ; and then 
what infinite diligence in the preparatory studies ! 
what truth of detail in the composition ! Here we 
see what English history is ; what an inheritance 
to a poet able to make use of it. Our German 
history, in five volumes, is, comparatively, sheer 
poverty ; so that, after Goetz von Berlichingen, writers 
went immediately into private life, giving us what 
really was no great gain, an Agnes Vernauerin, and 
an Otto von Wittelsbach." 

I said that I had been reading "Daphnis and Chloe" 
in Courier's translation. 

" That, also," said Goethe, " is a masterpiece, 
which I have often read and marvelled at, in which 
Understanding, Art, and Taste, appear at their highest 
point, and beside which the good Virgil retreats 
somewhat into the back-ground. The landscape is 
quite in the Poussin style, and appears, behind the 
personages, finished, though with very few strokes. 

" You know Courier found, in the Florentine 
Library, a new manuscript, containing the principal 
passage of the poem which had been lost from the 
preceding editions. Now, I must acknowledge that 
I had always read the poem in its imperfect state, 
without observing or feeling that the apex was wanting. 
But this may be a proof of the excellence of the 



334 



ECKERMANN. 



poem, since what we had satisfied us so completely 
that we never thought of what was wanting." 

After dinner, Goethe showed me a drawing, by 
Coudray, of an extremely tasteful door for the 
Dornburg Castle, with a Latin inscription, signifying, 
that he who would enter should find friendly reception 
and entertainment, and that to him who passed by a 
happy journey was wished. 

Goethe had translated this inscription into a German 
distich, and placed it as a motto over a letter which 
he had written, in the summer of 1828, during his 
residence at Dornburg, to Oberst von Beulwitz. I had 
heard much in public of this letter, and was very glad 
when Goethe showed it me, at the same time with the 
drawing. 

I read the letter with great interest, admiring the 
skill with which he had used the localities of Dorn- 
burg to introduce the noblest views suited to raise 
up man again, however great a loss he may have 
sustained, and place him on his feet ready for action. 

I rejoiced in this letter, observing that it is needless 
to travel far in search of good material, but that all 
depends on the strength in the mind of the poet, 
which is able to produce something valuable from the 
lowest occasions. 

Goethe put the letter and drawing in a portfolio by 
themselves. 

Friday, 11th March. 
" It is remarkable in Sir Walter Scott," said Goethe, 
" how his great descriptive talent sometimes leads him 
into error. There is a scene in ' Ivanhoe/ where a 



CONVERSATIONS. 



385 



company are seated at table in the hall of a castle, by 
evening light, and a stranger enters. Now, it is right 
for him to describe the upper part of this stranger's 
person and dress, but a mistake also to describe his 
feet, shoes, and stockings. If we sit at table in the 
evening, and any one comes in, we observe only the 
upper part of his figure. Describe his feet, and you 
introduce daylight, destroying the nocturnal character 
of the scene." 

Goethe went on expressing his admiration of Walter 
Scott. I asked him to put his views on paper ; but he 
declined, observing that art stands so high in this 
writer that it would be difficult to tell the public 
what he thought of him. 

******** 

Wednesday, 16th March. 

Speaking of " William Tell," I expressed my sur- 
prise that Schiller should have made such a mistake 
as to degrade his hero by unworthy treatment of the 
flying Duke of Swabia, making him judge the Duke 
so severely, while he boasts of his own deed. 

" It would be incomprehensible," said Goethe, 
" only that Schiller was, like others, subject to the 
influence of women, and this mistake happened rather 
from such interference than from his own fine nature." 

Friday, 18th March. 
We talked of higher maxims, and whether it be 
advisable or possible^ to communicate them to other 
men. 

" A disposition to receive what is high," said 

H H 



386 



ECKERMANN. 



Goethe, " is very rare ; and, therefore, in common 
life, a man does well to keep such things for himself, 
and only to give out what part seems needful to place 
others at some advantage." 

We touched upon the point that many men, 
especially critics and poets, wholly ignore true great- 
ness, and therefore over-praise mediocrity. 

11 Man," said Goethe, " recognizes and praises only 
that which he himself is capable of doing ; and those 
who, by nature, are mediocre, have the trick of 
depreciating productions, which, if they have faults, 
have also good points, so as to elevate the mediocre 
productions which they are fitted to praise." 

We spoke of the Farbenlehre, and of those German 
professors who continue to warn their pupils against 
it as a great error. 

"I am sorry, for the sake of many a good scholar," 
said Goethe ; " but, for myself, it is all one ; my 
Farbenlehre is as old as the world, and cannot always 
be calumniated and set aside." 

He spoke of Soret's translation of the " Metamor- 
phosis of Plants." 

" * m * I have had inserted," said he, " some 
passages, by valuable young inquirers into nature, in 
which it is pleasant to see that, among the best people 
here in Germany, a good style has become so common 
that you cannot tell which is speaking. The book, 
however, gives me more trouble than I expected ; 
indeed, I was drawn into the undertaking, almost 
against my will, by some demoniacal influence which I 
could not resist." 

"You did well," said I, " to yield to the influence; 



CONVERSATIONS. 



387 



for this Demoniacal seems so mighty a nature as to be 
always in the right at last." 

" Yet must man," he replied, " exert himself to do 
his part ; and I must, in the present instance, do my 
work with that care and diligence which my strength 
and circumstances permit. In such matters, it is like 
the game which the French call codillc, where throws 
of the dice, indeed, decide in a great measure, but 
placing the pawns judiciously on the table is left to 
the discretion of the player." 

I venerated this good doctrine, and took it to heart, 
that it might regulate my future actions. 

Monday, 21st March. 
We talked on political subjects, — of the incessant 
disturbances at Paris, and the unwise desire of young 
people to meddle in the most important affairs of 
state. 

" In England, also," said I, " the students some 
time ago tried to obtain an influence on the decision 
of the Catholic question by sending in petitions ; but 
they were laughed at, and no further notice taken 
of them." 

" The example of Napoleon," said Goethe, " has, 
especially in the young people of France who grew 
up under that hero, excited a spirit of egotism ; 
and they will not rest until a great despot once again 
rises up among them, in whom they may see the 
perfection of what they themselves wish to be. The 
misfortune is, that a man like Napoleon will not so 
soon again be born; and I fear that some hundred 



388 



ECKERMANN. 



thousands of human lives must be wasted before the 
world can again be tranquillized. 

" Of literary operations there can be no thought 
at present ; all that is to be done is quietly to prepare 
good things for a more peaceful time." 

We spoke again of " Daphnis and Chloe." Goethe 
said that Courier's translation was perfect. 

" Courier did well," said he, " to respect Amyot's 
old translation, and only in parts to improve, to purify, 
and- bring it nearer the original. The old French 
is so naive, and suits the subject so perfectly, that 
it would not be easy to make, in any language, a 
more perfect translation of this book." 

We spoke of Courier's own works, — of his little 
fugitive pieces, and the defence of the famous ink- 
spots on the manuscript at Florence. 

" Courier," said Goethe, " is a great natural genius. 
He has features of Lord Byron, as also of Beaumar- 
chais and Diderot. He is like Byron in command 
over all things which may serve him as argument, — 
like Beaumarchais in his adroitness as an advocate, — 
like Diderot in dialectic skill, — and it is not possible 
to be more spirited and witty. However, he seems 
not to have entirely cleared himself from the ink-spot 
accusation, and is, in his whole tendency, not suffi- 
ciently positive to claim unqualified praise. He is 
at variance with all the world, and we must suppose 
that the fault is in part his own." 

We spoke of the difference between the German 
word Geist, and the French Esprit. 

" The French Esprit," said he, " means nearly the 
same with our German word Witz. Our Geist might, 



CONVERSATIONS. 



389 



perhaps, be expressed in French by Esprit and Arne. 
It includes the idea of productivity, which is not the 
case with the French Esprit." 

" Voltaire," said I, " had a clear idea of that which 
we name Geist. And when Esprit does not suffice 
to express this, what word do the French use?" 

" Genie" he replied. 

u I am reading," said I, " a volume of Diderot, and 
am astonished by the extraordinary talent of the man. 
And what knowledge ! what a power of language ! 
We see that, in a great animated world, where each 
was constantly exciting the other to create, and mind 
and character were kept in such constant action, both 
must be flexible and strong. But it is extraordinary 
to see what men French literature could boast in the 
last century. I am astonished wherever I take a look 
at it." 

" It was the metamorphosis of a hundred-year-old 
literature," said Goethe, " which had been growing 
ever since Louis XIV., and stood now in full flower, 
Voltaire excited the emulation of such men as Diderot, 
D'Alembert, and Beaumarchais. To be somewhat near 
him, a man needed to be much, and could allow him- 
self no holidays." 

* * # * # # * * 

As I went, he gave me an essay, by Schrön, on the 
expected comet, that I might not remain entirely a 
stranger to such matters. 

Tuesday, 22d March. 
Goethe read to me passages from the letter of a 
young friend, now at Rome. Therein figured certain 

h h 2 



390 



ECKERMANN. 



German artists, with long hair, mustachios, shirt-collars 
turned over on old-fashioned German coats, tobacco- 
pipes, and bull-dogs. They do not seem to visit Rome 
for the sake of the great masters, or to learn any thing.* 
To them Raphael seems weak, and Titian merely a 
good colorist. 

" Niebuhr," said Goethe, " was right in predicting 
an era of barbarism. It is already here, and we are 
in the midst of it ; for wherein does barbarism consist, 
unless in not appreciating what is excellent ?" 

Our young friend also gave an account of the carni- 
val, the choice of the Pope, and the revolution which 
broke out immediately after. 

Horace Vernet ensconces himself like a knight, 
while some young German artists stay quietly at home, 
and cut off their beards, which seems to intimate that 
they may not have made themselves, by their conduct, 
very popular among the Romans. 

We discussed the question whether the errors per- 
ceptible in certain young artists of Germany, originated 
with individuals, and had spread abroad by intellectual 
contagion, or whether they were the effect of the 
general tendency of the time. 

" They come," said Goethe, " from a few individ- 
uals ; and the work has been doing these forty years. 
The doctrine was, the artist needs, chiefly, piety and 
genius, in order to produce master-pieces. Disciples 
seized with both hands upon this flattering doctrine. 
For, to become pious, a man need learn nothing, and 
genius each one inherited from his lady mother. One 
need only utter what flatters indolence and conceit, 



CONVERSATIONS. 



391 



and he is sure of plenty of adherents among the 
ordinary set of people." 

Friday, 25th March. 

Goethe showed me an elegant green elbow-chair, 
which he had bought to-day at an auction. 

" However," said he, " I shall use it little or none ; 
for all indolent habits are against my nature. You see 
in my chamber no sofa ; I sit always in my old wooden 
chair, and never, till a few weeks ago, have permitted 
even a leaning-place for my head to be added. If 
surrounded by tasteful furniture, my thoughts are 
arrested, and I am placed in an agreeable, but passive 
state. Unless we are accustomed to them from early 
youth, splendid chambers and elegant furniture had 
best be left to people who neither have nor can have 
any thoughts." 

Sunday, 27th March. 

The long-expected fine spring weather has come at 
last. Over the perfectly blue heaven hovers only some 
little white cloud now and then, and it is warm enough 
for summer clothing. 

Goethe had the table covered in a pavilion in the 
garden, and we dined once more away from the house. 
We talked of the Grand Duchess ; how she is quietly 
at work in all directions, doing good, and winning the 
hearts of all her subjects. 

" The Grand Duchess," said Goethe, " has as much 
intellect and sweetness, as good will ; she is truly a 
blessing to the country. And as men are every where 
quick to feel whence they receive benefits, worshipping 



392 



ECKERMANN. 



the sun and kindly elements, I wonder not that all 
hearts turn to her with love, and that she is speedily 
known as she deserves to be." 

I mentioned that I had begun " Minna von Barnhelm " 
with the Prince, and observed how excellent it appeared 
to me. 

" Lessing," said I, M has been spoken of as a cold 
man of understanding ; but I find in this drama as 
much heart, soul, charming naturalness, and free 
world-culture, of a fresh, cheerful, living man, as any 
one could desire." 

" You may imagine," said Goethe, " what an effect 
that work produced on us young people at the dark 
day in which it came out. Truly it was a glittering 
meteor. It taught us to perceive a higher state of 
things, of which the weak literary productions of that 
time gave no idea. The two first acts are models in the 
art of exposition ; from which much has been, and much 
may still be learned. Now-a-days, indeed, writers are 
not curious about this art : what was once expected 
only in the third act, may now be found in the first 
scene: they are not aware that it is with poetry as 
in going to sea ; we should push from the shore, and 
reach a certain elevation, before we unfurl all our 
sails to the wind." 

Goethe had some excellent Rhine wine brought, 
sent by his Frankfort friends as a present on his last 
birth-day. He told some stories about Merck, and 
how he could not pardon the Grand Duke for having 
once praised an ordinary wine as excellent. 

" Merck and I," he continued, " were always to 
one another as Mephistophiles to Faust. Even so 



CONVERSATIONS. 



393 



did he mock at a letter written by my father from 
Italy, in which he complained of the miserable way 
of living, bad wine, food to which he was unac- 
customed, and mosquitoes. Merck could not forgive 
him, in that delicious country, and surrounded by 
objects so magnificent, for being troubled about such 
little matters as eating, drinking, and flies. 

" All Merck's ironical ways had, no doubt, their 
foundation in a high state of culture ; only, as he was 
not productive, but had, on the contrary, a decidedly 
negative tendency, he was ever more inclined to 
blame than to praise, and involuntarily was always 
seeking for means of gratifying this inclination." 

We talked of Vogel, and his ministerial talents; of 
* * * , and his character. 

" * * * ," said Goethe, " is a man by himself — 
a man who can be compared with no other. He alone 
sided with me in opposing the freedom of the press : 
he stands fast ; one can depend on him ; he will always 
abide by what is legitimate." 

After dinner, we walked up and down in the garden, 
taking our pleasure in the snow-drops and crocuses, 
now in full flower. The tulips, too, are coming out ; 
and we talked of the splendor and costliness of these 
children of Holland. 

" A great flower-painter," said Goethe, " is not now 
to be expected : we have attained too high a degree 
of scientific truth ; and the botanist, having no eye 
for picturesque lights and grouping, counts the stamina 
after the painter." 



394 



ECKERMANN. 



Monday, 28th March. 

I passed some delightful hours with Goethe. He 
said he had as good as finished his " Metamorphosis 
of Plants/' had turned this morning to the fourth 
volume of his " Biography," and made an outline 
of what is yet to be done, adding — 

"I may in some sort name myself enviable, in that 
I am permitted at so advanced an age to write the 
history of my youth, and, indeed, of an epoch, in many 
respects, of high significance." 

We talked over the particulars, which were perfectly 
familiar both to him and me. 

" In the description of your love for Lili," said I, 
" we no way miss your youth ; rather have such scenes 
the very breath of earlier years." 

" It is," said Goethe, " because those scenes are 
poetical ; and I can, by the power of poetry, supply 
the want of the youthful feelings of love." 

He spoke also of his sister. 

" What relates to her," said he, " will be read with 
interest by accomplished women, of whom many, like 
her, do not combine the advantage of personal beauty 
with their intellectual and moral endowments." 

###*##*# 

Tuesday, 29th March. 

We talked of Merck. 

" The late Grand Duke," said Goethe, " was very 
partial to Merck, so much so that he once became his 
security for a debt of four thousand dollars. Very 
soon Merck, to our surprise, gave him back his bond. 



CONVERSATIONS. 



395 



As Merck's circumstances were not improved, we 
could not divine how he had been able to do this. 
When I saw him again, he explained the enigma 
thus — 

" ' The Duke, 5 said he, « is an excellent, generous 
man, who trusts and helps men whenever he can. So 
I thought to myself, " Now, if you cozen him out of his 
money, that will prejudice a thousand others; for he 
will lose his precious trustfulness, and many unfortu- 
nate but worthy men will suffer, because one was 
worthless." So I made a speculation, and borrowed 
the money from a scoundrel, whom it will be no matter 
if I do cheat ; but if I had not paid our good lord, 
the Duke, it would have been a pity.' " 

We laughed at the whimsical greatness of the man. 

" Merck had a habit," continued Goethe, " of 
continually shouting he, he, as he talked. This grew 
upon him, with advancing years, till at last it became 
like the bark of a dog. He fell at last into a hypo- 
chondriacal gloom, the consequence of his many 
speculations, and finished by shooting himself. He 
imagined he must become bankrupt ; but they found 
his affairs by no means in so bad a state as he had 
supposed." 

Wednesday, 30th March. 

We talked again of the demoniacal element. 

" It throws itself willingly into figures of impor- 
tance," said Goethe, " and prefers somewhat darkened 
times. In a clear prosaic city, like Berlin, for 
instance, it would scarcely find occasion to manifest 
itself." 



396 



ECKERMANN. 



In this remark Goethe expressed what I had been 
thinking some days since. This gave me the pleasure 
we always feel in finding our thought confirmed. 

Yesterday and this morning I had been reading his 
" Biography," and fared like one who, after making 
progress in a foreign language, reads again a book, 
which he thought he understood in an earlier day, but 
now first perceives its minute touches and delicate 
shades. 

" Your ' Biography,' " said I, "is a book by which 
you see our culture greatly assisted." 

" Those are mere results from my life," said he ; 
" the particular facts that are related serve only to 
confirm a general reflection, or higher truth." 

# * # # # # * # 

c ' I named the book Dichtung und Wahrheit ^ 
(Poetry and Truth,) because it raises itself by higher 
tendencies from the region of a low Reality. Now 
has Jean Paul, in the spirit of contradiction, written 
Wahrheit aus meinem Leben, (Truth out of my Life;) 
as if the truth from the life of such a man could be 
any other than that the author was a Philistine. But 
the Germans do not easily understand how to receive 
any thing out of the common course, and what is 
of a high nature often passes them by .without their 
being aware of it. A fact of our lives is valuable, not 
according as it is true, but as it is significant." 

Thursday, 31st March. 
Dined at the Prince's with Soret and Meyer. We 
talked of literary matters. Meyer gave an account 
of his first acquaintance with Schiller. 



CONVERSATIONS. 



397 



" I was walking with Goethe," said he, " in the place 
called Paradise, near Jena, where we met Schiller, and 
conversed with him for the first time. He had not 
then completed Don Carlos ; he had just returned from 
Swabia, and seemed very sick, and in a state of 
nervous suffering. His face was like the pictures 
of the Crucified One. Goethe thought he could not 
live fourteen days ; but, as his situation became more 
agreeable, he grew better, and, indeed, wrote all his 
best things after that period." 

Meyer then related some traits of Jean Paul and 
Schlegel, — both of whom he met at a public house in 
Heidelberg, — and pleasant stories about Italy, which 
entertained us highly. 

I always feel happy near Meyer ; probably because 
he is a self-relying, satisfied person, little affected by 
the circumstances which surround him, but, at suitable 
intervals, uttering the feelings of his happy, inward 
existence. He is every where well grounded, possesses 
great treasures of knowledge, and a memory to which 
the most remote events are as* present as if they 
happened yesterday. He has a preponderance of 
understanding, which might make us dread him, 
if it did not rest upon the noblest culture ; but, 
as it is, his quiet presence is always agreeable, always 
instructive. 

Friday, 1st April. 

Goethe showed me a picture, in water colors, by 
Herr von Reutern, representing a young peasant, who, 
in the village market, stands beside a female basket- 
seller. The young man is looking at the baskets 

1 1 



398 



ECKERMANN. 



which lie before him, while two women, who are 
seated, and a buxom girl, who is standing by, look 
with an expression of pleasure at the handsome young 
man. The composition of the picture was so graceful, 
the expression of the figures so true and naive, that 
one could not be weary of looking at it. 

" Simpletons," said Goethe, " say Von Reutern has 
nobody but himself to thank in his art ; he has done 
every thing for himself ; as if a man got any thing 
from himself but ignorance and awkwardness. If Von 
Reutern had no nominal master, yet has he been 
acquainted with excellent masters, and has from them 
and their great predecessors, and omnipresent nature, 
learnt what is now his. Nature gave him excellent 
talents, which Art and Nature have unfolded. He is 
admirable, in many respects unique ; but they should 
not say he has all from himself. This may be said 
of a bad artist, never of a good." 

He then showed me, from the same artist, a rich 
frame, painted with various colors, and gilt, having in 
the midst a space left free for writing. Above was 
a building in the Gothic style; on both sides, rich 
arabesques, with landscapes and domestic scenes inter- 
woven ; beneath, a gay wood party, with the freshest 
verdure and turf. 

" Von Reutern," said he, " wishes that I should 
write something in the place he has left open ; but his 
frame is so splendid, and so rich in art, that I fear 
lest I spoil the picture by my hand-writing. I have 
composed some verses for the occasion, and have been 
thinking whether I had not better have them copied 



CONVERSATIONS. 



399 



there by a caligrapher, and only subscribe them with 
my own hand. What should you advise ? " 

"If I were Von Reutern," said I, "I should be 
grieved to hg,ve them in the hand of another ; happy, 
if in your own. The painter has made the frame so 
rich in art, that none is needed in the writing ; it 
is only important that it should be in your own hand. 
I advise you not to use the Roman, but the German 
text ; for your hand has in that a more peculiar char- 
acter, and it harmonizes better with the Gothic 
designs in the frame." 

" You may be right," said Goethe; " and in the end 
it will be my shortest way. Perhaps to-day will bring 
a courageous moment, in which I may venture upon 
it. But if I make a blot on the beautiful picture/' 
added he, laughing, "you shall answer for it." 

" Write only," said I, " and it will be well, however 
it be." 

Tuesday, 5th April. 
" In Art," said Goethe, " we meet not easily a talent 
that gives us more pleasure than that of Neureuther. 
Few artists know how to confine themselves to what 
they can do well ; most are constantly trespassing 
beyond the circle in which Nature intended them to 
work. But of Neureuther, we can say that he stands 
above his talent. All the departments of nature are 
at his command; he draws ground, rocks, and trees, 
with as much skill as men or animals, and, while he 
lavishes such wealth on slight marginal drawings, 
seems to play with his capabilities, and that pleasure 
which is wont to accompany the spending a rich 



400 



ECKERMANN. 



income in a free and easy manner, passes over to the 
spectator. 

" No one can vie with him in these marginal 
drawings ; even the great talent of Albert Dürer has 
been less his pattern than his excitement. I will send 
a copy of these drawings to Scotland, to Mr. Carlyle, 
and hope they will prove no unwelcome present to 
that friend." 

Monday, 2d May. 

Goethe spoke of a certain well-known writer. 

" His is a talent," said he, " which, independent 
of its alliance with party hate, would have produced 
no effect. There are many such instances in litera- 
ture, where hatred supplies the place of genius, and 
where vulgar abilities make a sensation by lending 
themselves to be the organ of a party. So we find in 
life a multitude of persons who have not character 
enough to stand by themselves : these enlist in some 
party, and thus feel stronger and make some figure. 
Beranger, on the other hand, is a genius sufficient 
to itself, and therefore has never served any party. 
He enjoys too much satisfaction in his inner life, for 
the world to have power over him, either to give or 
to take away." 

Sunday, 15th May. 

Dined with Goethe alone in his work-room. After 
much pleasant conversation, he rose and took from 
his desk a written paper. 

" One," said he, " who has, like myself, passed the 



CONVERSATIONS. 



401 



age of eighty, has hardly a right to live, and ought 
each day to hold himself ready to be called away. I 
have, as I lately told you, appointed you in my will 
as the editor of my literary legacy, and have this 
morning drawn up a sort of contract, which I wish 
you to subscribe with me." 

He placed before me the paper, in which I found 
myself, with certain stipulations and conditions, 
appointed the editor of the works, partly finished and 
partly not, which were to be published after his death. 
I had come to an understanding with him upon 
essentials, and we both signed the contract. 

I supposed the material, which I had already from 
time to time been busy in revising, might make out 
fifteen volumes. 

" It may chance," said Goethe, " that the publisher 
is unwilling to go beyond a certain number of volumes, 
and that some part of the materials cannot be used. 
In that case, omit the polemics of my Farbenlehre. 
My peculiar doctrine is contained in the theoretical 
part ; and there is enough of polemics in the historical, 
as the leading errors of the Newtonian theory are 
pointed out there. I nowise disavow my severe 
dissection of the Newtonian maxims ; it was necessary 
at the time, and will, also, have its value hereafter ; 
but, at bottom, all polemical activity is repugnant to 
my disposition, and I can take but little pleasure 
in it." 

We also talked about the best way of disposing of 
the Maxims and Reflections, which had been printed 
in the second and third volumes of the Wanderjahre. 

Il2 



402 



ECKERMANN. 



When he began to work over and finish this 
romance, which had, originally, been published in one 
volume, Goethe intended to expand it into two, and 
so announced it for the new edition. But, as the man- 
uscript grew beneath his hands more than he expected, 
and as his secretary wrote it out in so loose a way 
as to spread it over more paper than was necessary, 
he was deceived into thinking he had enough for three 
volumes, and sent it so arranged to the publishers. 
But when the press had reached a certain point, it was 
found that Goethe had made a miscalculation, and 
that the two last volumes would be too small. They 
sent for more manuscript, and, as the course of the 
whole could not be altered, and no new novel could be 
invented, written, and inserted, on the spur of the 
occasion, Goethe was much perplexed about filling 
up the space. 

He sent for me, told me the difficulty, and men- 
tioned, at the same time, what means had occurred 
to him for helping himself out of the difficulty. 
He showed me two large bundles of manuscript, 
saying — 

" In these two parcels you will find various hitherto 
unpublished and unfinished works, essays on natural 
science, art, literature, and life, all mingled together. 
Suppose you should prepare from these six or eight 
sheets, to fill the gap in my romance. Though, 
closely looked to, they do not belong there, yet, as 
Makaria's Archive is mentioned, an excuse is afforded 
for inserting them ; and thus we shall not only get 
over the present difficulty, but find a vehicle for 



CONVERSATIONS. 



403 



introducing to the world a number of interesting 
things." 

I prepared them, accordingly, with speed, and Goethe 
seemed well satisfied with the course I had adopted. 
I put together the whole in two parts, one under the 
title " From Makaria's Archive ; " the other, under the 
head " According to the Thoughts of the Wanderer." 
And, as Goethe, just at this time, had finished two 
fine poems, one Auf Schiller $ Schädel, and the other 
Kein Wesen kann zu nichts zerfallen, he was desirous 
also to bring out these poems, and we added them 
at the close of the two divisions. 

But when the Wanderjahre came out, no one knew 
what to make of all this. The progress of the 
romance was seen to be interrupted by a parcel of 
enigmatical sayings, whose explanation could be 
expected only from men of a certain class, such as 
artists, literati, and natural philosophers, and which 
greatly annoyed all other readers, especially lady 
readers. And the two poems were as far from being 
understood as may be supposed when found so out 
of place. Goethe laughed at all this. 

" What is done is done," said he to-day, " and all 
you have to do is, in a future edition, to insert these 
things in their proper places, and republish the 
Wanderjahre in two volumes, according to my original 
intention." 

We agreed that I should arrange all that belonged 
to Art, Nature, Literature, and Ethics, each in a 
volume, under a suitable title. 



404 



ECKERMANN. 



Wednesday, 25th May. 
We talked of " Wallenstein's Camp." I had often 
heard that Goethe had assisted in the composition of 
this, and, in particular, that the Capuchin sermon 
came from him. To-day, I asked him, and he re- 
plied — 

" At bottom, it is all Schiller's own work. But, 
as we lived in such a relation that Schiller not only 
told me his plan, and talked it over with me, but also 
communicated what he did from day to day, hearing 
and using my remarks, I may be said to have had some 
share in it. As to the Capuchin's sermon, I sent him 
a discourse, by Abraham a Sancta Clara, and he 
immediately prepared his with great talent. 

" I scarcely remember any passages to have come 
from me except the two verses — 

' Ein Hauptmann den ein andrer erstach 
Liess mir ein paar glückliche Würfel nach,' 

For, wishing to give some motive for the peasant's 
use of the false dice, I wrote down these lines in the 
manuscript with my own hand. Schiller did not 
trouble himself about that, but, in his bold way, gave 
the peasant the dice without inquiring how he came 
by them. A careful linking together of motives was, 
as I have said, not in his way ; whence, perhaps, his 
pieces had so much the greater effect on the stage." 

Sunday, 29th May. 
Goethe told me of a boy who could not tranquillize 
himself after he had committed a trifling error. 



CONVERSATIONS. 



405 



" I was sorry to observe this," said he; " it shows 
a too great tenderness of conscience, which values 
so highly the peculiar moral self that it will excuse 
nothing in it. Such a conscience makes hypochon- 
driacal men, unless it is balanced by great activity." 

A nest of young hedge-sparrows, with one of the 
old birds, had lately been brought me. I saw with 
admiration the bird not only continue to feed the 
young in my chamber, but, when set free through the 
window, return to take charge of them. Such pa- 
rental love, superior to danger and imprisonment, 
moved me deeply, and I, to-day, expressed my feelings 
of surprise to Goethe. 

"Simple man!" he replied, with a meaning smile ; 
" if you believed in God, you would not wonder. 

" ' Ihm ziemt's, die Welt im Innern zu beicegcn, 
Natur in Sich, Sich in Natur zu hegen, 
So dass, xoas in Ihm lebt, und xoebt, und ist, 
Nie Seine Kraft, nie Seinen Geist vermisst.' 

" He from within lives through all Nature rather, 
Nature and Spirit fostering each other ; 
So that what in Him lives, and moves, and is, 
Still feels His power, and owns itself still His." 

" Did not God inspire the bird with this all-powerful 
love for his young, and did not similar impulses 
pervade all animate nature, the world could not 
subsist. But even so is the divine energy every 
where diffused, and divine love every where active." 

So, a few days since, when a model from Myron's 
cow, with the suckling calf, was sent him by a young 
artist — 



406 



ECKERMANN. 



" Here," said he, " we have a subject of the highest 
sort — the nourishing principle which upholds the 
world, and pervades all nature, is brought before our 
eyes by this beautiful symbol. This, and others of a 
like nature, I esteem the true symbols of the omni- 
presence of God." 

Monday, 6th June. 

Goethe showed me the till now wanting beginning 
of the fifth act of " Faust." I read to the place 
where the cottage of Philemon and Baucis is burnt, 
and Faust, standing by night on the balcony of his 
palace, perceives the smoke, which is borne to him 
by a light breeze. 

" These names of Philemon and Baucis," said I, 
" transport me to the Phrygian coast, recalling the 
famous couple of antiquity. But this scene belongs 
to modern days, and a Christian land." 

" My Philemon and Baucis," said Goethe, " have 
nothing to do with the ancient characters and their 
story. I gave this couple the names merely to mark 
their characters. The persons and relations being 
similar, the use of the names has a good effect." 

We then spoke of Faust, whom his hereditary 
portion of discontent has not left in his old age, and 
whom, amid all the treasures of the world, and in a 
new dominion of his own making, a couple of lindens, 
a cottage, and a bell, which are not his, have power 
to annoy. He is therein not unlike Ahab, King of 
Israel, who fancied he possessed nothing, unless he 
could also make the vineyard of Naboth his own. 

" Faust," said Goethe, " should, according to my 



CONVERSATIONS. 



407 



design, appear just a hundred years old in the fifth 
act ; and perhaps it would be well, in some passage, 
expressly to say so." 

We then spoke of the conclusion, and Goethe 
directed my attention to the passage — 

" Delivered is the noble spirit 

From the control of evil powers ; 
Wlw ceaselessly doth strive must merit 

That ice should save and make him ours : 
Celestial Love did never cease 

To watch him from its upper sphere; 
The children of eternal peace 

Bear him to cordial welcome there." 

" These lines," said he, " contain the key to Faust's 
salvation. In himself, an activity becoming constantly 
higher and purer, eternal love coming from heaven 
to his aid. This harmonizes perfectly with our 
religious view, that we cannot obtain heavenly bliss 
through our own strength, unassisted by divine grace. 

" You will confess that the conclusion, where the 
redeemed soul is carried up, was difficult to manage ; 
and that I, amid these supersensual matters, about 
which we scarce have even an intimation, might 
easily have lost myself in the vague, if I had not, 
by means of sharply-drawn figures and images from 
the Christian church, given my poetical design the 
desirable form and compactness." 

In the following weeks, Goethe finished the fourth 
act ; so that, in August, the second part was entirely 
finished and sewed together. Goethe was extremely 



408 



ECKERMANN. 



happy in having attained this object towards which 
he had been striving so long. 

" My remaining days," said he, " I may now 
consider a free gift ; and it is truly of little conse- 
quence what I now do, or whether I do any thing." 

Wednesday, 21st December. 
Dined with Goethe. The question came up why 
his Farbenlehre had not spread abroad more exten- 
sively. 

"It is not easily to be propagated," said he ; 
" because it must, as you know, not only be read 
and studied, but also be done, which is difficult. The 
laws of poetry and painting are also communicable 
up to a certain degree ; but, to be a good poet or 
painter, genius is required, which is not communicable. 
To receive a primitive phenomenon in its simplicity, 
to recognize its high significance, and work with it 
accordingly, demands a productive intellect, capable 
of taking a wide survey, and is a rare gift, only to 
be found in highly-favored natures. 

"And even this is not enough. For, as no man, 
with all the rules, and all the genius requisite, is a 
painter, except by unwearied practice, so with the 
Farbenlehre — it is not enough that the disciple know 
the true laws, and have a suitable intellect, unless he 
is continually busy observing, combining, and drawing 
inferences from the individual, often very mysterious, 
phenomena." 

#**####* 

After dinner, we looked at some landscapes, by 
Poussin. 



CONVERSATIONS. 



409 



" Those places," observed Goethe, " on which the 
painter throws the principal light, do not admit of 
detail in the execution ; and, therefore, water, masses 
of rock, bare ground, and buildings, are most suitable 
subjects for the reception of the principal light. 
Things, on the contrary, which require more detail, 
should not be used by the artist in those light places. 

" A landscape-painter should possess various sorts 
of knowledge. It is not enough for him to understand 
perspective, architecture, and the anatomy of men 
and animals ; he must also have some insight into 
botany and mineralogy, that he may know how to 
express properly the characteristics of trees, plants, 
and the different sorts of mountains. It is not, indeed, 
necessary that he should be an accomplished mineral- 
ogist, since he has to do chiefly with lime, slate, or 
sandstone mountains, and only needs know in what 
forms they lie, how they are acted upon by the 
atmosphere, what trees thrive, and what are stinted 
of their growth upon them." 

He showed me then some landscapes, by Hermann 
von Schwanefeld, making various remarks upon the 
art and personality of that eminent man. 

" We find in him," said he, " art and inclination 
more completely identified than in any other. He 
has a deep love for nature, and a divine tranquillity, 
which pass into us as we look upon his pictures. 
He was born in the Netherlands, and studied at Rome, 
under Claude Lorraine. On this master he formed 
himself, and unfolded his fine capacities with perfect 
success." 

We looked into an " Artist's Lexicon," to see what 

KK 



410 



ECKERMANN. 



was said of Von Schwanefeld, and found him censured 
for not having equalled his master. 

"The fools!" said Goethe; "Von Schwanefeld 
was a different man from Claude Lorraine, and the 
latter could not boast of being the better of the two. 
If there were nothing more in one's life than is told 
by your writers of biographies and lexicons, it would 
be a bad business, not worth the trouble it costs." 



At the close of this, and in the beginning of the 
next year, Goethe turned again to his darling studies, 
the natural sciences, and, at the suggestion of Boisse- 
ree, occupied himself with inquiries into the laws 
of the rainbow ; and also, from sympathy with the 
dispute between Cuvier and St. Hilaire, with subjects 
referring to the metamorphoses of the plant and 
animal world. Also, he aided me in revising the 
historical part of the Farbenlehre, taking also lively 
interest in a chapter on the blending of colors, which 
I, by his desire, was arranging to be inserted in the 
volume upon the theory. 

During this time, there was no lack of interesting 
conversations between us, or of valuable utterances 
on his side. But, as he was daily before my eyes, 
fresh and energetic as ever, I fancied this must 
always be so, and was too careless of recording his 
words, till, on the 22d March, 1832, I, with thousands 
of noble Germans, was called to weep for his irrepara- 
ble loss. 

The following I noted down shortly after, from 
memory : — 



CONVERSATIONS. 



411 



Early in March, 1832. 

Goethe mentioned at table that he had received a 
visit from Baron Carl Von Spiegel, with whom he 
was uncommonly well pleased. 

" He is a very fine young man," said Goethe ; " in 
his mien and manners the nobleman is seen at once. 
He can as little dissemble his descent as another 
man could his intellect; for both birth and intellect 
give their possessor a stamp which no incognito can 
conceal. Like beauty, these are powers which one 
cannot approach without some feeling of their high 
nature." 

Some days later. 

We talked of the Greek idea of Destiny, as 
exhibited in their tragedy. 

" It does not suit our way of thinking," said 
Goethe ; " it is obsolete, and contradicts our views 
of religion. If a modern poet- introduces those 
antique ideas into his dramas, he gives them an air 
of affectation. The dress is, long since, out of 
fashion, and suits us as ill as the Roman toga 
would. 

" It is better for us moderns to say with Napoleon, 
'Political Science is Destiny.' But let us beware 
of fancying, with our late literati, that politics are 
poetry, or a suitable subject for the poet. 

" The English poet Thomson wrote a very good 
poem on the Seasons, a very bad one on Liberty ; 
and, truly not from want of poetry in the poet, but 
in the subject. 

"If a poet would work politically, he must give 



412 



ECKERMANN. 



himself up to a party ; and so soon as he does that, 
he is lost as a poet; he must bid farewell to his 
freedom of spirit, his unlimited prospect, and draw 
over his ears the cap of bigotry and blind hatred. 

" The poet may, as a man and citizen, love his native 
land ; but the native land of his poetic energies and 
poetic action is the Good, Noble, and Beautiful, which 
is confined to no province nor country, which he is 
to seize upon and body forth wherever he finds it. 
Therein is he like the eagle, which hovers, with free 
gaze, over all countries, and to which it is of no 
consequence whether the hare, on which he pounces 
down, is running through Prussia or through Saxony. 

" And what, then, is meant by love of one's country ? 
what is meant by patriotic deeds ? If the poet has 
employed a life in battling with pernicious prejudices, 
in setting aside narrow views, in enlightening the 
intellects, purifying the tastes, ennobling the feelings 
and thoughts of his countrymen, what better could 
he have done 1 how showed himself more truly a 
patriot? 

" The ungrateful and unsuitable demands made 
upon a poet are even as if they demanded of the 
captain of a regiment to show himself a patriot, by 
taking part in political innovations, which would 
oblige him to neglect his proper calling. The country 
of the captain is his regiment, and he will show 
himself a good patriot by taking only his due part in 
politics, and bestowing his whole mind, and all his 
care, so to train and discipline the battalion confided 
to him, that they may play the desired part, if the 
native land should be in peril. 



CONVERSATIONS. 



413 



" I hate all bungling, like sin ; but, most of all, 
bungling in state affairs, which produces nothing but 
mischief to thousands and millions. 

" You know that I, generally speaking, care little 
what is written about me ; but it comes to my ears, 
and T know well that, in the eyes of certain people, 
all my life-long toils and labors are as nothing, merely 
because I have disdained to mingle in party squabbles 
about politics. To please such people I must have 
become a member of a Jacobin club, preaching up 
bloodshed and murder ; but not a word more upon 
this subject, lest I show myself unwise in railing 
against folly." 

Also, he blamed the political course, so much 
praised by others, of Uhland. 

" Watch well," said he, u and you will see the 
politician devour the poet. To be a member of the 
Estates, and live amid perpetual jostlings and excite- 
ments, is not the life for a poet. His song will cease 
soon, and that ,is in some sort to be lamented. 
Swabia has plenty of men, sufficiently well educated, 
well meaning, able, and fluent of tongue, to be 
members of the Estates ; but only one poet of 
Uhland's class." 



The last stranger whom Goethe entertained as his 
guest was the eldest son of Frau von Arnim ; the 
last words he wrote were some verses in the album 
of the above-named young friend. 

The morning after Goethe's death, a deep longing 
seized me to look yet once again upon his earthly 



414 



ECKERMANN. 



garment. His faithful servant, Frederic, opened for 
me the chamber in which he was laid out. Stretched 
upon his back, he reposed as if in sleep ; profound 
peace and security reigned in the features of his 
noble, dignified countenance. The mighty brow 
seemed yet the dwelling-place of thought. I wished 
for a lock of his hair; but reverence prevented me 
from cutting it off. The body lay naked, only 
wrapped in a white sheet ; large pieces of ice had 
been placed around, to keep it fresh as long as 
possible. Frederic drew aside the sheet, and I was 
astonished at the divine magnificence of the form. 
The breast was so powerful, broad, and arched ; 
the limbs full, and softly muscular ; the feet elegant, 
and of the most perfect shape ; nowhere, on the 
whole body, a trace either of fat or of leanness 
and decay. A perfect man lay in- great beauty 
before me ; and the rapture which the sight caused, 
made me forget, for a moment, that the immortal 
spirit had left such an abode. I laid my hand on 
his heart — there was a deep silence — and I turned 
away to give free vent to my tears. 



THE END. 



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